How to: Get prepared for an I-9 compliance audit

BY Russell Ford


For employers and human resources professionals, the employment eligibility verification process can be a daunting one. If unorganized, the process becomes all the more difficult.

Because of the cumbersome nature of the process, it is good practice to undergo I-9 compliance audits at least twice a year. These audits are especially important because they not only help employers remain in I-9 compliance, but also help prepare for I-9 audits carried out by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's Immigration Customs and Enforcement (ICE) — and they can come knocking at any time.

But what if you are unfamiliar with the process? These helpful tips will help prepare you for an I-9 audit.

On July 17, USCIS released a new version of Form I-9. As of Sept. 18, all employers must use the updated version of the I-9. You can download the new I-9 form at

Before the process begins, it is best to make sure that the roster of employees is up to date. Remember, all employees hired on or after Nov. 6, 1986, must have a completed I-9. During the audit process, I-9 forms will be matched up against the current roster of employees to check for any discrepancies.

Now that you've reviewed the roster, check and see if all documentation is accounted for. Remember, documentation for former employees is only needed for one year after separation, so no need to clutter your files with unnecessary information. Most importantly, if it is discovered that an I-9 is not present for an employee, make best efforts to obtain one as soon as possible.

In an I-9 audit, accuracy is key. Sections 1 and 2 will be reviewed for accuracy while Section 3 will be reviewed for accuracy only if changes have been made, such as employment status, reverification and rehires. Employers should be prepared to provide any necessary corrections to ensure compliance.

Documentation will most definitely be reviewed during the process. All documents — List A or List B and List C — will be checked for validity. It is extremely important to audit the process to provide authentic, valid documentation or else face fines and penalties.

Overlooking signatures is one of the most common mistakes made by both employees and employers when filling out the I-9 form. That's why it is crucial to carefully look over all three sections of the I-9 once it has been completed.

Even simple record keeping mistakes and omissions can result in huge fines and issues, so make sure to give the forms one more look to ensure all signatures are obtained — just to be safe.

While I-9 compliance may seem simple, it is full of hurdles that can cause serious issues for employers.

Failure to be in compliance is breaking the law and can result in severe fines and penalties. Remember, an ICE Notice of Inspection can come at any time and they will want I-9 documentation within three business days, so organization is essential.

Russell Ford is a business immigration attorney and co-founder of FordMurray Law in Portland. He assists public and private employers, large and small, in developing effective immigration policies and strategies for personnel movement around the globe. He can be reached at