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Posts Tagged ‘I-9 Penalties’

Penalties for I-9 Violations: What you need to know

Monday, January 23rd, 2017

One group of customers standing on a red target bullseye, with magnifying glass hovering above it

The DOJ announced in August 2016 that it was making significant increases to the schedule of fines imposed for various violations including those associated with compliance with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (“IRCA”) imposed sanctions on employers; namely:

Form I-9 Paperwork Violations:
Previous fine per Form I-9 violation: $110 to $1,100
Fine effective August 1, 2016 per Form I-9 Violation: $216 to $2,126

Unlawful Employment of Unauthorized Workers:
First Offense
Previous fine, per worker: $375 to $3,200
Fine effective August 1,2016 per worker: $539 to $4,313
Second Offense
Previous fine per worker: $3,200 to $6,500
Fine effective August 1, 2016, per worker: $4,313 to $10,781
Subsequent Offenses
Previous fine, per worker: $4,300 to $16,000
Fine effective August 1, 2016, per worker: $6,469 to $21,563

Unfair Immigration-Related Practices
First Order
Previous fine, per worker: $375 to $3,200
Fine effective August 1, 2016, per worker: $445 to $3,563 (however repeat offenders could face new maximum penalty of $21,563 per worker.)

These fines also increase per subsequent order and frequent offenders may face a maximum fine of $17,816 per worker.

As reported in one of our previous blog posts concerning employment verification under a Trump Administration:

Considering employment draws immigrants to the United States, it is likely that we will see stricter enforcement of the Form I-9 verification process under Trump’s presidency.  Starting next year, there will likely be more ICE officers and immigration judges hired to expedite cases.  This increase in staff may lead to an increase in the number of worksite inspections for I-9 compliance.  It is also possible that there will be an increase in penalties and fines for any violations uncovered.  Therefore, it is important for employer’s to ensure that their paperwork, policies, and practices are in order in case of an audit.  Given that Trump may overturn President Obama’s Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA), employers also need to be aware of which of their current foreign-born employees may become immediately undocumented and take proper action.

Trump has consistently applauded the E-Verify process for its systematic ability to filter out unauthorized employment.  In his position paper on immigration, he would mandate that the E-Verify process be used across the U.S.  Although, Trump will likely meet the same resistance as Congress has in the past, when it tried and failed several times to implement mandatory E-Verify.  That being true, Trump may still be able to strengthen or increase the program through unilateral executive orders.

DOJ issues interim final rule increasing fines 35-96% for employing unauthorized workers

Friday, July 8th, 2016

Searching for a Niche Group - Magnifying Glass

This rule implements as an inflation adjustment fines for employing unauthorized workers for Form I-9 paperwork violations, and for immigration-related discrimination. These new fines increase the penalties from 35% to 96% depending on the nature and severity of the violation.

We encourage you to review your policies, procedures and your Form I-9 inventory.  Remember, the key to defending any employment related investigation is to evidence that there is and has been a consistent pattern of responsible, good faith effort on the part of the employer in establishing a compliant workforce.

Refer here for the details.


Recent DOJ Worksite Enforcement Settlements that Shed Light on Form I-9 Employer Compliance

Sunday, September 20th, 2015

One group of customers standing on a red target bullseye, with magnifying glass hovering above it

Plain and simple, failing to comply with IRCA’s I-9 rules have, and are continuing at a rapid rate, to result in significant fines, loss of access to government contracts, an onslaught of negative publicity, business closure, criminal penalties and even imprisonment.  Here are a few examples of recently settled cases in August 2015:

1) Creating discriminatory barriers for immigrants who have permission to work in the United States, $165 civil penalty with $50K in back pay:

2) Requiring non-U.S. citizens, but not similarly-situated U.S. citizens, to present specific documentary proof of their immigration status to verify their employment eligibility, $200K civil penalty:

3) City of Eugene, OR improperly restricted law enforcement positions to U.S. citizens at the time of hire, even though no law, regulation, executive order or government contract authorized such a restriction. must pay a civil penalty, train its employees about the anti-discrimination provision of the INA and be subject to monitoring by the Justice Department for a period of three years!


Immigration Compliance Group provides US inbound immigration services to individuals and employers throughout the USA and abroad. We specialize in business immigration and have a depth of experience in the IT, healthcare, arts, entertainment and sports industries, amongst others. Our services include complex business visas for investors, multinational managers, skilled professionals, outstanding individuals of high achievement (O-1, P visas, EB-1 and EB-2 Exceptional Ability cases) and PERM Labor Certification.  We additionally provide employer compliance consulting services on proper I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification) management, auditing, training, and work with our clients to develop a culture of immigration compliance. Our door is open for new clients — we extend a 20% discount on the first case with our firm.  Contact us at or call 562 612.3996.

I-9/E-Verify: Preventing Discrimination in Hiring Practices

Sunday, October 6th, 2013 Immigration and Nationality Act (“INA”) prohibits employers from discriminating against individuals based on their citizenship or immigration status, or based on their national origin, in the Form I-9 process. It is important for employers to develop, implement and enforce anti-discrimination policies, practices and procedures, and to ensure that all employees conducting Form I-9 verification or E-Verify confirmation understand all program rules. Employers should also provide appropriate and adequate employee education on employer responsibilities and worker rights.

To prevent discrimination, employer’s should treat all people equally when


  • announcing a job
  • taking applications
  • performing interviews
  • making job offers
  • verifying the individual’s authorization to work
  • hiring the individual
  • terminating the individual’s employment

Employers also must not retaliate against a person who             

  •  files a charge of discrimination with OSC or EEOC
  • participates in an investigation or prosecution of a discrimination complaint
  • asserts his or her rights or the rights of another person under anti-discrimination laws

The Department of Justice’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) investigates charges of employment discrimination related to an individual’s citizenship or immigration status or national origin.  The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission (EEOC) also investigates employment discrimination based on national origin, in addition to other protected bases. OSC investigates national origin claims against employers with four to 14 employees, and EEOC investigates national origin claims against employers with 15 or more employees. 

There has been a high level of enforcement by OSC this year concerning the anti-discrimination provision, with three more cases recently publicized in the last month:

  1. OSC settled with Texas-based Infinity Group who required non-citizens present specific DHS-issued documents such as green-cards or employment authorization to establish identity and employment authorization while similarly not requesting the same of US citizens.  They were fined $53,000, had to pay $35K in back pay to those who were damaged as a result of their practices.
  2. OSC settled with PA-based Huber Nurseries for engaging in citizenship discrimination by preferring to hire temporary H-2A visa holders over Permanent Residents (green-card holders).  Huber has agreed to pay $2,250 in civil penalties to the USA and $59,617 in back pay to the six injured parties, who are former refugees; and
  3. OSC settled with IBM for violating the anti-discrimination provision for placing online job postings for software developers with a preference for F-1 and H-1B visa holders.  IBM has agreed to pay $44,400 in civil penalties to the USA.

So, what’s an employer to do?

Employers must accept all documents that are indicated on the List of Acceptable Documents to complete the I-9 form as long as they appear reasonably genuine on their face and relate to the employee. For example, all individuals who possess a driver’s license and unrestricted Social Security card may present those documents to satisfy Form I-9 requirements. Employers may not request or require potential employees to produce “green cards” or United States citizens who look or sound “foreign” to produce birth certificates. The employee chooses which of the acceptable Form I-9 documents to present.  Employers must assure that those charged with the responsibility of I-9 management are trained on I-9 regulations and the anti-discrimination provision of the INA – and they must not          

  • Demand that an employee show specific documents
  • Ask to see employment authorization documents before an individual accepts a job offer
  • Refuse to accept a document, or refuse to hire an individual, because a document will expire in the future
  • Refuse to accept a receipt that is acceptable for Form I-9 purposes
  • Demand a specific document when reverifying that an employee is authorized to work

We recommend that you take some time and read the OSC’s Guide to Fair Employment that can be accessed here, that contains some thought provoking What would you do? scenarios that start on page 6.

Should you have questions or require particular guidance on this topic, please feel free to contact our office.

I-9 Compliance: Too Much To Ask?

Sunday, July 1st, 2012

By:  Timothy Sutton, Communications Editor

In the USDOJ published decision United States v. Four Seasons Earthworks, ICE made it clear that with respect to form I-9 compliance, late is not any better than never. Four Seasons failed to pass an ICE audit that found incomplete form I-9 List A and List C information. The company asserted they obtained every employee’s social security number and maintained supporting documents (like military IDs and birth certificates) necessary to verify employment eligibility. ICE’s response was terse, “Late production nevertheless does not absolve the respondent from liability.”

Securing qualified employees can be stressful. Once a worthy recruit is hired, employers may be anxious to have the new-hire begin working even before they secure the required documentation to complete the I-9 form. Improper documentation constitutes a violation under the INA. In it’s investigation of Four Seasons Earthworks, the ICE Forensic Auditor calculated penalties based upon the following formula:

 Number of Violations divided by the total number of current & former employees up to inspection date = % of base fine

Additionally, 5% increases for bad-faith or serious violations are tacked on to penalties. The number of undocumented workers, the size of a business, and previous violations are also considerations that increase penalties.

Thankfully, an employer’s good faith attempt to comply with obligations can influence a penalty reduction. ICE views hiring violations on a continuum, recognizing violations vary in severity. If your company finds itself in a similar situation with employees who are not properly documented, hiring immigration compliance professionals may greatly reduce your chances of incurring audit-initiated penalties. Contact us for support in planning and implementing legally sound solutions to protect your company’s future:  562 612.3996 |



Form I-9/E-Verify News: FBI & ICE Serve TX Surveyors 20 Counts, $5M in Fines and 100 Years in Prison for 19 Illegal Workers

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

By:  Timothy Sutton, Communications Editor

“Homeland Security Investigations is committed to holding businesses and their managers accountable when they knowingly hire an illegal workforce,” –John Kelleghan, Special Agent in charge of HSI Philadelphia.

Homeland Security, the FBI, and ICE did much more than hold GPX/GPX, USA, a seismic surveying company and their field supervisor, Donald Wiggill, “accountable,” by charging the company with a total maximum fine of $10 million, a probation term of five years on each count, and a special assessment totaling $8,000; Wiggill faces an unconscionable indictment of 100 years in prison on all 20 counts, a fine of $5 million, a supervised release term of 60 years, and a special assessment of $2,000. The Texas based company failed to verify the immigration status of nineteen employees and did not prepare the required Form I-9 and supporting documentation concerning the immigrants’ authorization to work in the United States.

John Kelleghan of Homeland Security further justified the Philadelphia HSI decision to levy such harsh punishment for I-9 non-compliance saying, “HSI and our law enforcement partners will continue to ensure that employers follow our nation’s hiring laws, which ultimately protect job opportunities for the nation’s legal workers, and levels the playing field for those businesses that play by the rules.”

The proportionality of the punishment sought for the crime is extremely shocking. Our blog has recently covered the penalties imposed upon, HerbCo, Chipotle, and most recently ABC Tree Professionals, which pale in comparison to the punishment GPX is now facing.

GPX is being treated like a national security threat for mishandling nineteen employees Form I-9s. The difference between thousands of dollars versus millions of dollars in fines, in addition to 100 years of jail time, is the involvement of the FBI and the Homeland Security. GPX is charged with harboring and transporting illegal aliens and conspiracy to commit those offenses as outlined in an indictment by the U.S. Attorney for the Middle District of Pennsylvania, Peter J. Smith. Whether GPX was honestly aware of their employees’ immigration status is still unknown, however proper planning and implementation of I-9 compliance would have saved the company millions in civil penalties and avoided a hundred years of jail time. With the stakes elevated so tremendously high by this multi-departmental crackdown on workforce compliance –  who can afford not to get their legal documents in order?

To protect your business and your employees please contact one of our immigration professionals at or call 562 612.3996.

Form I-9: ABC Tree Cuts $2,000,000 Deal With ICE | Immigration Compliance Group News

Tuesday, May 29th, 2012

By:  Timothy Sutton, Communications Editor

For the Houston based ABC Professional Tree Service, Inc., firing non-compliant workers and implementing E-Verify was too little too late. Even after implementing E-Verify and firing hundreds of workers following an ICE audit in 2008, the Immigration Customs Enforcement agency of the Department of Homeland Security recently announced reaching a $2,000,000 non-prosecution agreement with ABC. Shockingly, the sum was based upon ICE’s estimation of profits ABC earned through illegal labor practices.

After four years of investigation, ICE did not release how the $2,000,000 figure was reached. However, they did release an estimate that up to 30% of the 2,500 ABC employees were illegally employed. In a press release on May 18, 2012, ICE espoused ABC knowingly employed illegal workers after receiving “no-match letters” from the Social Security Administration. Additionally, on March 4, 2010, two years after the initial audit, ICE seized records from the ABC Birmingham office through a federally issued warrant. Undocumented employees in the Alabama office and working in the field were detained.

Typically Form I-9 violations lead to heavy monetary penalties, but in this case ICE chose to cut a non-prosecutorial deal. It is unclear from the information released whether or not the $2,000,000 sum is more or less than ABC would have faced in fines? But more importantly, businesses like ABC who are subject to years of audits and investigations, despite implementing E-Verify and discharging employees, have little bargaining power. Consequently, the best defense against an ICE audit is total compliance. Employers would be wise to hire a professional consultant to train staff, organize existing documentation and manage future non-compliance issues. The Immigration Compliance Group has the experience and resources necessary to protect your business from an ICE audit.  Contact one of our immigration professionals at or call 562 612.3996.


I-9 Form: Recipes For Success | Lessons Learned as a Restaurant Manager

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

By:  Timothy Sutton, Communications Editor

Like many successful restaurant managers, I worked my way up from the bottom of the employee food chain. That meant with each promotion from bus boy to manager, I was trained by other employees on how to do my job. By the time I became a General Manager, I erroneously believed that being a good manager meant being able to follow established procedures. I soon discovered that this was actually a recipe for disaster.

Auditioning a new waiter is a common practice in the restaurant industry. This entails observing an applicant voluntarily interacting with customers, taking orders, serving food and working with other employees. Typically, the audition ends with a free meal in exchange for the waiter’s time and parking validation if the restaurant is generous. Throughout the industry, restaurateurs believe that this practice limits their liability because the applicant has not yet become an employee in “volunteering,” their time to audition for the job.

However, the M-274 Handbook For Employers instructions on completing form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Form) classifies this practice of meals and parking reimbursement as remuneration: anything of value given in exchange of labor or services, including food or lodging. Because restaurant managers typically train one another on hiring practices, there is a perpetual false belief that auditioning waiters is a healthy hiring practice. According to the M-274, the work done in exchange for the value of a meal exposes restaurants to form I-9 non-compliance fines. Essentially, the audition becomes Day One of employment, which requires I-9 forms to be completed and retained.

If the applicant is not hired, both Section 1 and 2 of the I-9 form must be completed that same-day in order to comply with rules regarding employees retained for three-days or less. Without the proper knowledge and training on these I-9 compliance issues, managers expose their companies to thousands of dollars in fines by auditioning waiters. A successful manager goes beyond following the established procedures by having the foresight to seek professional guidance to ensure that company employment practices are in accordance with the law.

For fresh insight into how your business’s employment practices can become a recipe for success contact our office at or call 562 612.3996.

Please refer to our informative Employer Resource Center for more, and here for a list of our services and solutions.



I-9 News Update: Industries that ICE is Targeting

Tuesday, March 6th, 2012

We have heard many recent reports that ICE will step up the pressure on its I-9 Field Agents to surpass the number of I-9 audits they performed in 2011, and that they will be looking at various industries such as employers in critical food, energy, and infrastructure industries. In June 2011, ICE did not specify which businesses would be specifically targeted, but did say that immigration agents would focus on seventeen sectors including agriculture, financial services, nuclear reactors, water treatment, and health care.

It has been recently reported by the Farm Employer’s Labor Service (FELS) that the  EVP of NCAE (National Council of Agricultural Employers) was informed by credible sources that ICE field agents will once again focus their I-9 audit investigations on high-profile agriculture and restaurant employers to surpass their 2,496  I-9 audits and 3,291 work site enforcement cases conducted in 2011.  More specifically, they are again (no surprise) targeting high-profile/maximum press coverage employers, the biggest farms and restaurants, and employers who were previously audited and/or had issues with DOL or DHS in the past –  who can now expect to be be revisited in 2012.

With good faith effort being one of the most important rules applied in ICE enforcement audits and investigations, it is recommend that all employers get their ‘houses in order’ as it relates to I-9 employment verification eligibility compliance.  We would strongly suggest that you put your emphasis on  retaining an outside expert to perform a thorough I-9 audit of your active and inactive I-9 forms to really get a handle on problems and reoccurring issues buried in your I-9 forms.  This step alone can save you hundreds of thousands of dollars, as well as the potential of losing employees and recruitment and re-training costs.  Then get your staff trained and don’t let anyone not properly trained be involved with hands-on I-9 functions.  Next, establish a written compliance statement outlining the SOP that your company will follow — a plan that makes sense for your business……then implement it, and be diligent in your efforts to create and maintain  a compliant workforce showing a good faith effort to comply with I-9 regulations to the best of your knowledge and ability.  Lastly, avail yourself of reliable information from skilled professionals that report on compliance issues – subscribe to a newsletter and a blog so that you can stay ahead of the game.  You should check out our free information – both blog and newsletters.

We invite you to contact our firm to discuss your compliance issues, or call 562 612.3996.


Immigration Compliance Group focuses its practice on corporate employment verification compliance and US and Canadian inbound business immigration.   Our team has a depth of experience in providing uniquely tailored services and solutions to assist clients in developing comprehensive employment authorization and immigration-related compliance.  We conduct onsite and offsite  I-9 audits for companies of all sizes, design training curriculum to assure that staff is knowledgeable concerning the  management of their I-9 program, and we assist with policy development so that our clients have a plan and strategy that assures their compliance in a manner that makes sense for their business and evidences their good faith in establishing a compliant workforce.

Update: What’s the Current Immigration Enforcement Climate?

Sunday, February 5th, 2012

It has been recently reported that ICE is launching another round of worksite investigations, but this time, returning to employers that have already been through a federal investigative audit in the last three years.  We’ve not seen this before. Approximately 500 employers are being re-visited by ICE Special Agents to confirm that non-compliant activity identified during prior audits has been resolved.

Employers must make sure they are hiring only people who can work legally in the U.S. Businesses that previously have received warning letters or administrative fines may now be the subject of yet more fines if ICE Special Agents determine that  the employer continues to make the same mistakes.

Bear in mind, that several Federal agencies have the authority to review your I-9 forms, these agencies consist of ICE, The Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC) and the DOL, Wage and Hour Division.  Each of these agencies investigate violations in the I-9 process, and we strongly advise that employers need to be prepared for a visit from any one of them.

ICE has recently announced their enforcement related statistics in the area of I-9 compliance for 2011, as follows:

  • 2,496 I-9 audits were conducted
  • 3,291 worksite enforcement cases were initiated
  • Criminally arrested 221 employers
  • Issued 385 Final Orders for $10.4+ million in fines; and
  • Debarred 115 individuals and 97 businesses

These enforcement statistics should indeed be troubling to employers, particularly given that  they don’t reflect the number of ICE notices (such as the Notice of Discrepancies or Notice of Suspect Documents) that are sent to employers, who are otherwise compliant, but may have accepted fraudulent documents or whose employees may have purchased the identity of a US citizen for work authorization purposes, despite your best efforts.  As a result of this, employers across the country have had to terminate thousands of employees and incur the expense of hiring and training new employees.

ICE expects to audit some 3,000 employers in 2012.  We recommend that you hire experts in the field to conduct either a partial or full audit, depending upon your circumstances, train personnel who are charged with the processing of your I-9 forms, and develop a written policy statement that reflects your goals for remaining compliant.