ICE I-9 Audits Have Hit Seattle: How to Minimize Exposure


Audits Are on the Rise

Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has always had the authority to request and review the Forms I-9 for any employer. ICE audits quadrupled in 2018 over the previous year, and the agency stated it “is carrying out its commitment to increase the number of I-9 audits in an effort to create a culture of compliance among employers.” Employers in Seattle are now feeling the effect of this commitment with a local increase in subpoenas and Notices of Inspection from ICE.

Common Pitfalls

Most errors do not involve falsifying forms or hiring unauthorized workers. Employers simply make mistakes when completing the form on the employee’s start date. Those mistakes are what can lead to significant civil penalties, often in the form of expensive fines. During its audit, ICE will identify both technical failures and substantive failures. Even the act of correcting a mistake can lead to a separate “failure” if not done properly.

Steps to Take When You Are Audited

When you receive a Notice of Inspection and subpoena, there are a few fast steps you can take to comply with ICE and minimize your exposure to civil and/or criminal penalties.

  1. Update your employee roster: This may sound easy, but accurate and well-organized information will be helpful when you have only three or 10 days to turn over your forms.
  2. Contact an immigration attorney: An attorney with I-9 audit experience can help you develop your plan, review your forms, interpret the subpoena and minimize risk of fines.
  3. Don’t jump to conclusions: Be careful not to take any action against employees that could be discriminatory. Take care to reduce fear and speculation within your workforce.
  4. Don’t be late: Ensure that you and your attorney have a plan to turn over all of the requested forms and documents in a timely manner.

Three days is not a lot of time to comply with a government request, but an experienced immigration attorney can guide you through the audit process to save your company a significant amount of time and money.


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