Using a four-step test, attorney Jim Velasco audits companies’ I-9 procedures to make sure they comply with government standards. Most companies fail the test.
When Velasco walks into a company, he asks four major questions – pretty much the same ones a government inspector will ask when investigating an I-9 violation:
1. Do you have policies and procedures for verifying an employee’s identity, and are they in writing? Has top management signed off on them? At a minimum, the policies should adhere to the requirements outlined in Form M-274 Employer Handbook from the U.S Citizen and Immigration Services.
2. Do you conduct awareness training for staff who deal with I-9s? And is the training documented?
3. Do you conduct sample audits of verification documents, including the I-9 forms and supporting documents? You can do the audit with in-house staff or hire an audit professional.
4. If you find problems with a sample audit, do you conduct a wider audit to see if the problems are widespread?
Velasco, writing in the summer issue of “Relationships” magazine, says that besides failing the four-part test, 30% to 50% of the companies have compliance problems just with the I-9s themselves.
A big reason to take the four steps: Besides uncovering mistakes, the procedure amounts to an excellent “good faith” defense – that you’ve given it your best shot to comply – if government investigators do uncover a violation.