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Posts Tagged ‘Immigration compliance’

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

Friday, July 8th, 2016

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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.

 

OSC & ICE Publish Guidance to Employers on Internal I-9 Audits

Wednesday, December 16th, 2015

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The Department of Justice’s Office of Special Counsel (OSC) and the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) have issued a six-page joint Guidance for Employers Conducting Internal Form I-9 Audits that can be viewed here:  http://www.justice.gov/crt/file/798276/download

This guidance is a result of a six-month intra-agency initiative to foster greater cooperation across government agencies in the I-9 audit space. The group overseeing this initiative, entitled the Interagency Working Group for the Consistent Enforcement of Federal Labor, Employment and Immigration Laws, is tasked with improving the effectiveness of investigations by ICE and the OSC.

For more

 

 

New Information: I-9/E-Verify FAQ’s between AILA and ICE/HSI

Sunday, August 31st, 2014

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The following are excerpts from a meeting between the American Immigration Lawyer’s Association (AILA) and ICE/HSI (Homeland Security Investigations) from November 19, 2013 that represents some material changes in regulations concerning several important issues such as pre-population, how many violations per I-9 is permitted, E-Verify and new hires, and more, as follows:

Electronic I-9s

 AILA Question: In the January 2013 liaison meeting with AILA, and again in April 2013, ICE HSI indicated that pre-population of Section 1 of an electronic Form I-9 did not comply with regulations. In the April 2013 liaison meeting with AILA, USCIS confirmed that pre-population of Section 1 in an electronic Form I-9 was not acceptable, regardless of whether the company’s representative signed the translation section.  AILA has received information indicating that HSI has recently announced that it has no position on pre-population of Section 1 of an electronic I-9.  Can HSI please clarify for AILA what its current position on pre-population is? Does HSI consider pre-population acceptable under certain circumstances? What are those circumstances?

ICE Response: What may constitute “pre-population” varies substantially. In reviewing any specific pre-population practice, ICE will examine the company’s practices overall to determine
whether a violation occurred and a sanction should be imposed.

How many Notices of Inspection did HSI serve in 2013?

ICE Response: ICE served 3,100 NOIs.

Multiple penalties for single I-9

AILA Question: AILA members have reported that employers have been assessed separate fines for every error on one Form I-9. In other words, a Form I-9 with five errors will generate a fine that is five times more than a Form I-9 with one substantive error. OCAHO cases and ICE’s “Form I-9 Inspection Overview” Fact Sheet indicate that “the standard fine amount” is calculated against each Form I-9 with substantive violations, regardless of the number of substantive violations on the Form I-9. Please confirm that a form with one substantive error would generate the same fine as a form with five substantive errors in the same Form I-9 audit.

ICE Response: There can only be two violations per Form I-9: (1) a knowing hire, continuing to employ violation; and/or (2) a paperwork violation. Only one paperwork violation should be assessed per Form I-9. If more than one paperwork violation per I-9 is cited, attorneys should raise the issue with the ASAC or SAC.

Pervasive single error on I-9s: AILA Question:  We frequently work with employers who due to a training error make the same error on the Form I-9 (such as repeatedly omitting the List C issuing authority). As it is one pervasive error, it does not indicate the more pervasive problems or potential disregard for the verification process, as would employers whose forms I-9 have many different errors. Would HIS consider adjusting its penalty matrix or making some other accommodation to take into account the fact that one common mistake on multiple Forms I-9 should not lead to the same penalty as different or multiple mistakes on the same number of multiple Forms I-9?

ICE Response: ICE is considering this issue. ICE acknowledged that one pervasive error on multiple I-9s seems like a different level of violation than wide-ranging multiple errors. ICE agreed to consider ways to address this.

I-9s for owners of closely held corporations. AILA Question: The OCAHO decision in Santiago Repacking, 10 OCAHO No. 1153 (Aug. 24, 2012) held that an owner in a closely-held corporation, who also works there and draws a paycheck, does not need to have an I-9 form. Please confirm that HSI follows this decision.

ICE Response: ICE stated that it follows all OCAHO decisions.

NOI Notices

AILA Question: The current NOI notices include language that suggests that HSI will require employers to provide access to their electronic I-9 systems. Is this a current practice? If so, what have been the results of these audits? Has HSI considered any employer’s I-9s to be uniformly invalid due to non-compliance of the electronic system used, or does HSI determine whether the electronic I-9s have substantive/technical deficiencies on a case-by-case basis for each I-9?

ICE Response: In some cases ICE has asked the employer to provide a live demonstration, not just a canned demonstration. This applies to both commercially available software and in-house applications.

E-Verify Q&A

Roll-over of employer data. AILA Question: At recent meetings, USCIS has informed AILA that future releases of E-Verify would enable an employer who terminates its MOU (at least for reasons of merger or change in designated agent) to have continued access to its prior E-Verify records and allow transfer of historical data to the updated account. What is the status of this development? If an employer with a terminated MOU needs access to historical E-Verify information, what is the process for obtaining it?

USCIS Response: There is currently no mechanism for an employer to continue to have access to E-Verify data after termination of an MOU.  Once an account is closed, all access to the account and its associated records are terminated. USCIS is developing a method and/or feature for the retention of historical E-Verify data, but there is no tentative date set for this enhancement. At this time, the best workaround to preserve E-Verify records is for the employer and E-Verify Employer Agent to create and retain a complete user audit report for themselves and their clients. From within the Administrator’s functions, an employer can create an Excel spreadsheet with all of the information.  Note that this report would not relieve the employer’s responsibility under the MOU for either copying the E-Verify receipt number on the Form I-9 or attaching the E-Verify record to the form.

AILA Question: What if an electronic I-9 vendor or Employer Agent goes out of business: can an employer have direct access to the information?

USCIS Response: Under data privacy rules, E-Verify is required to “archive” old data, which essentially means that the data is no longer available. The protocol anticipates archiving at the ten year anniversary of data collection, but so far, only pre-1996 data is subject to immediate archive.  Eventually all E-Verify data will be subject to archiving rules. Verification recommends as a best practice that employers print-out and retain the E-Verify records.

E-Verify and Re-hires

AILA Question: It appears that Verification recognizes that an E-Verify query is not always necessarily a rehire situation where the employer is allowed under I-9 regulations at 8 CFR §274a.2(c)(1)(i) to continue to rely on the re-hired employee’s original I-9.  The following guidance is posted in E-Verify FAQs:

Do I need to create a case in E-Verify if my company rehires an employee?

If you rehire a former employee within three years of his or her previous hire date, you may rely on the information on his or her previous Form I-9.  If you rehire an employee for whom you never created an E-Verify case and the employee’s and the employee’s previous Form I-9 lists an expired identity document (List B), then you may either:

–  Complete Section 3 of the employee’s previous Form I-9 and not create a new case for the employee in E-Verify or

–  Complete a new Form I-9 for the employee and create a new case for the employee in E-Verify

See the Handbook for Employers: Instructions for Completing Form I-9 (M-274) for more   information on rehires.  The above guidance, however, does not address the proper way for an employer to treat employees in the most common rehire circumstances – (1) where the rehired employee was not subject to E-Verify at the time of the original hire; and (2) where a rehired employee was previously run through E-Verify and does NOT have an expired identity document. The current guidance suggests, but does not state explicitly, that an E-Verify query based on the rehire date is required in situation (1) and that an employer should not re-query the rehired employee in (2). It was suggested that USCIS provide further clarification to the E-Verify rules for rehired employees and suggested the following amendment to the FAQ as follows:

An employer may rely on previous E-Verify queries for rehired employees in certain circumstances.  If you rehire a former employee within three years of his or her previous hire date, you may rely on the original Form I-9 as long as the work authorization (List C) documentation originally presented by the employee is still valid. If the rehire date is more than three years from completion of the original I-9, or if the employee’s work authorization has since expired, you must complete a new I-9 and run a new E-Verify query using the rehire date as the date of hire.  For purposes of E-Verify, where the employer can rely on the original I-9 and the rehired employee was subject to an earlier E-Verify query, you may continue to rely on the earlier query. If the rehired employee was not previously subject to an E-Verify query and the employee’s identity document is still valid, you may run the E-Verify query based on the data in the original I-9, but using the rehire date as the E-Verify hire date. If, however, the rehired employee’s identity document (List B) has expired, you cannot run an E-Verify query as the system will not accept expired documents. In that case, then you may either:

– Complete Section 3 of the employee’s previous Form I-9 and not create a new case for the employee in E-Verify or

– Complete a new Form I-9 for the employee and create a new case for the employee in E-Verify,  using the rehire date as the E-Verify hire date.

USCIS Response: USCIS updated the rehire section in the newest version of the E-Verify user manual and now provides the following guidance:

If you never created a case in E-Verify for the employee, you must have the employee complete a new Form I-9 and create a case in E-Verify. If you previously created an E-Verify case, but did not receive an employment authorized result, you must have the employee complete a new Form I-9 and create a case in E-Verify.  If you previously created a case in E-Verify for the rehired employee and received an employment authorized result, complete Section 3 of the employee’s previous Form I-9 and do not create a new case for the employee in E-Verify. Alternatively, you may choose to complete a new Form I-9 and create a case for the employee in E-Verify.  Employers are reminded that if you rehire your employee within three years of the date that the initial Form I-9 was completed, you may complete a new Form I-9 for your employee or complete Section 3 of the previously completed Form I-9. If more than three years has elapsed since the initial Form I-9 was completed, employers must complete a new Form I-9 for a rehired employee and create a case in E-Verify for the rehired employee.

That’s all for now.  We will continue to update as announcements are made concerning new interpretations concerning I-9/E-Verify compliance matters.

I-9/E-Verify: 2013 Compliance Considerations for Employers

Sunday, December 30th, 2012

As 2012 winds down, with year-end planning sessions and budget meetings for 2013, how would you rate your company’s employment eligibility compliance program, as it stands right now?  We are not in the bubble bursting business, but we’ve yet to see a compliance program that doesn’t need some upgrading and refinement – no one’s is perfect.

According to new data from ICE, since 2007, employer I-9 audits have increased from 250 to more than 3,000 in 2012.  From fiscal years 2009 to 2012, the total amount of fines grew to nearly $13 million from $1 million.  Statistics released by ICE in July 2012 stated that overall, $87.9 Million in fines have been imposed on employers for violations. The number of company managers arrested has increased to 238.  Widespread employer audits will continue to increase this year.  Plain and simple, failing to comply with IRCA’s I-9 rules will continue at a rapid rate, resulting in significant fines, loss of access to government contracts, an onslaught of negative publicity, business closure, criminal penalties and imprisonment.

With all the advice, blogs and articles written about the most complicated 1-page form on the planet, there are some basics – a simple formula that, if implemented, followed and maintained, will greatly enhance your level of I-9 compliance and reflect your company’s genuine desire to get its compliance house in order.  This is what we recommend:

  • Invest in a comprehensive I-9 audit by a knowledgeable attorney or professional who actually practices in this area of the law.  Don’t engage in a self-audit without participating in a thorough training program first.  This will cause more harm than good; it’s like the blind leading the blind.
  • Following the audit and the review of your report of findings, get trained before the correction process begins.  Who should be trained?  All those who have hands-on exposure to the I-9 process at all of your organization’s locations…and all those who supervise the process and staff.  Make training and reading the M-274 Employer Manual absolute requirements for those assigned to I-9 processing and management.
  • Establish a written Compliance Policy.  This does not need to be a huge undertaking, but should reflect your company policy concerning the steps you’ve taken to assure a compliant workforce and a culture of compliance at your organization.  It will be your road map and reflects that you take compliance seriously.  ICE will request this document, amongst many others, should they ever come knocking on your door.
  • Appoint a Compliance Guru – one who has a senior level of knowledge, who will monitor your internal compliance program, review your I-9 forms every few months for accuracy and completeness, provide updates and arrange for refresher training on a yearly basis.
  • Consult with a trusted professional in the field when questions or challenges arise – don’t guess.

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.  Stay informed, subscribe to our Blog, newsletter, and join in the conversation on our LinkedIn Group I-9/E-Verify: Smart Solutions for Employers.  Check out our compliance services and solutions here, and make a concerted effort this year to increase your level of compliance by following the above formula.

 

SEC & ICE Tag-Team Chipotle Mexican Grill | Immigration Compliance Group News

Monday, May 21st, 2012

By:  Timothy Sutton, Communications Editor

Since February of 2011, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, as well as the office of the U.S. Attorney for the District of Columbia, have been conducting investigations into Chipotle Mexican Grill’s compliance with employee work authorization laws and regulations. On May 17, 2012, Chipotle received a subpoena from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission, requesting information regarding compliance with employee work authorization requirements, related public statements and other disclosures.

Failing their initial ICE audit exposed Chipotle to the SEC violations under investigation. Even though a year has passed since the company released immigration compliance disclosures to their investors, the current SEC investigation may lead to further fines and federal litigation. In February of 2011, the company filed a Form 8-K with the SEC stating,

Our business could be adversely affected by increased labor costs or difficulties in finding the right employees for our restaurants.” Unauthorized workers are subject to deportation and may subject us to fines or penalties, and if any of our workers are found to be unauthorized our business may be disrupted as we try to replace lost workers with additional qualified employees. We could also experience adverse publicity arising from immigration-related enforcement activity that negatively impacts our brand and may make it more difficult to hire and keep qualified employees.”

The current SEC investigation has reopened the wound left by the ICE audits Chipotle endured over the past two years.  Following the ICE raids of 2010, Chipotle restaurants in Minnesota were issued a Notice of Suspect Documents identifying a large number of employees who appeared not to be authorized to work in the U.S. Employees who were unable to provide valid work eligibility documents were terminated. In December 2010, DHS requested work authorization documents for employees in the District of Columbia and Virginia. At that time, Chipotle filed a statement with the SEC in a Form 10-K stating:

“We believe our practices with regard to the work authorization of our employees, including the review and retention of work authorization documents, are in compliance with applicable law. However, the termination of large numbers of employees does disrupt our operations and results in a temporary increase in labor costs as we train new employees. It is not possible at this time to determine whether we will incur any fines, penalties or further liabilities in connection with these matters.”

The Department of Homeland Security, ICE, and the SEC’s investigation of Chiptole, sends a strong message to American employers that the U.S. government is relentless in its efforts to penalize employers of illegal aliens. ICE audits open the door to immigration, tax, and labor investigations that can cost employers (companies of all sizes – both private and public) millions in fines. In particular, this is a strong message to publicly held corporations that you must  take care now more than ever to ensure workforce compliance to avoid falling victim to an SEC probe.

As the mountain of immigration compliance trouble casts a shadow over Chipotle’s recent financial successes, further fines, penalties and liabilities levied by the SEC are sure to follow. For more updates on this matter subscribe to our RSS feed and for more information on how to avoid ICE audits and SEC investigations contact one of our immigration professionals at info@immigrationcompliancegroup.com or call 562 612.3996.

 

I-9 AND E-VERIFY: IMPORTANT INFORMATION FOR EMPLOYERS AND EMPLOYEES

Wednesday, July 2nd, 2008

Many US employers are contemplating voluntary usage of the E-Verify Employment Eligibility Verification System to assist with I-9 processing.  Another reason to use the system would be in consideration of the requirements recently set forth regarding extending job offers to F-1 students who are applying for a 17-month extension of optional practical training (OPT – extended work authorization) on the basis of a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics ( STEM).

 

With the implementation of the E-Verify electronic pilot program (a program in partnership with and providing database links to the SSA and the DHS/USCIS), it is incumbent upon all new employees to make sure that their information is current with the above-listed agencies.  We also recommend keeping your information current with the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). 

 

What with advanced technology and database sharing capability, regardless of whether or not your employer is participating in the E-Verify pilot program, it is everyone’s responsibility to keep their information current with the above-mentioned agencies.

 

Applicable situations where information should be updated are:

 

       A change of address

       A social security number change

       A name change as a result of marriage, divorce or adoption

       A change in status or work authorization; i.e., from visitor or student status to non-immigrant, work-authorized status; a change from one work authorized status to another as in H-1B to L-1 classification

       A change from nonimmigrant to immigrant status; i.e. H-1B to Green-Card/Permanent Residency status

        A change from permanent residency to US citizenship

 

Immigration Solutions provides telephonic and onsite I-9 training, consulting and document auditing, as well as employer compliance education and program development.  If you would like more information from us on this, please do not hesitate to contact us directly.  

 

Additionally, if we can assist your facility with immigration processing, or certification/licensing services in regard to the hiring of foreign health care workers, we would be pleased to speak with the appropriate person concerning this.  Unlike other immigration attorneys – this is our area of specialty.  We hope to hear from you soon.