In recent months, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has shifted its focus from employees working in the United States illegally to the employers who hire them. To protect your company and its management against civil fines and possible criminal charges, it’s important to have an immigration compliance program that’s up to date.
Reviewing your program
Here are some questions to ask:
- Do you have a written immigration policy? Whether it’s part of an employee handbook or a separate document, you should have a written policy that states your company’s intention to comply with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 and sets forth procedures for ensuring compliance. You also should have employees acknowledge in writing that they understand the policy and will adhere to it.
- Do you provide training? Training your human resources staff and other employees on your immigration policies and procedures is critical. It minimizes the risk of fines for hiring unauthorized employees and demonstrates to ICE that you’ve made a good-faith effort to comply with the law.
Employees should be trained on completing and storing Form I-9 — “Employment Eligibility Verification.” For example, it’s advisable to store I-9 forms and supporting documentation in files separate from ordinary personnel files so that ICE auditors don’t have access to unrelated personnel information. Training also should include how to inspect documents presented to establish identity and employment eligibility, as well as how to respond to ICE visits or subpoenas.
- Are you using the latest forms? Form I-9 is revised periodically, so be sure you’re using the latest version. At press time, the current version had a revision date of Aug. 7, 2009 (Rev. 08/07/09) printed in the lower right-hand corner. Immigration authorities will also accept the 02/02/09 version. You can download the form from “Most Searched Forms” at http://www.uscis.gov/portal/site/uscis.
- Are you required to use E-Verify? Most construction firms with federal contracts are now required to participate in the E-Verify program. In addition, an increasing number of states require contractors doing government work to use E-Verify, and a few states even require large, private-sector contractors to use the program.
E-Verify is a free, Web-based system that electronically verifies the employment eligibility of newly hired employees by comparing I-9 information against the Social Security Administration’s database. Even if you’re not required to use E-Verify, voluntary participation can be an easy, effective way to demonstrate good-faith compliance.
Getting legal advice
Given the serious consequences of noncompliance, it’s a good idea to consult your legal counsel to make sure your immigration program meets government standards.