If you employ foreign nationals at your company, you should know that you can be subjected to an immigration-related government audit or investigation at any time. Knowing and understanding Department of Labor (DOL) and Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requirements and procedures is essential if you want to save time and avoid fines and other sanctions.
The government has taken particular interest in H-1B non-immigrant professional and specialty worker visas; the I-9 process; and the new Labor Certification Application Program called “Permanent Electronic Review Management (PERM).
For the sake of brevity, the immigration attorneys at Lubiner, Schmidt & Palumbo in New Jersey are going to concentrate on the I-9 process and what you need to know as an employer. Obviously, in the wake of 9/11, DHS has taken great interest in security and identity in the workplace when it comes to foreign nationals. President Obama also placed greater emphasis on finding and penalizing companies that hire illegal immigrants, making that one of the pillars of his immigration policy.
The Immigration and Customs Enforcement Division (ICE) has been charged with worksite inspections and audits of I-9 documents. And they are taking that job seriously. In fiscal year 2007, ICE audited 250 companies. In FY 2012, ICE audited more than 3,000 companies. Fines went from $1 million to nearly $13 million in just five years. In fiscal year 2012 the median fine meted out was $11,000.
If you think your company is safe from an ICE audit, think again. A spokesman for ICE told The Associated Press, “Geography is not a factor. The size of the company is not a factor. And the industry it’s in is not a factor. We can audit any company anywhere of any size.”
He went on to say that ICE does work on tips from the public, employees, and employers; but they do not have to wait for a specific lead and can randomly audit any company.
While it appears that I-9-related audits have decreased a bit, don’t be fooled. While the I-9 looks like a deceptively simple document, incorrect preparation and improper retention of those documents can add up to lost time and lost money for your company. Anybody who has dealt with ICE knows that it doesn’t tend to be lenient or feel the need to educate employers about their responsibilities.
What you can take away from all of this is that immigration regulations, especially when it comes to hiring, are exacting and unforgiving if you get it wrong. The lawyers at Lubiner, Schmidt & Palumbo, LLC understand this. We are here to make sure you get it right, no matter what your immigration needs. Call Lubiner, Schmidt & Palumbo, LLC at (888) 847-2529 or contact us online today if you have any questions about immigration documentation and procedures.