Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has conducted almost 10,000 I-9 audits since 2009. The rate of audits has decreased a bit in recent years. However, there’s no telling what the next few years hold and when the number of inspections will increase again. If your business is audited, you have only three business days to produce I-9 forms for every current employee and many past employees as well. For each form you can’t deliver, there’s a fine of $110-1100. In 2015, one company was fined over $600,000. That was for failing to fill out I-9 forms properly and for not being able to produce a form at all for some employees. That’s just one example of how administrative errors can add up to big penalties. And it’s a very good reason to know and follow the I-9 retention requirements.
I-9 Retention Requirements Are Simple
Fortunately, the I-9 retention requirements are a lot simpler than things like tax regulations. You simply need to keep the form for at least one year after an employee is terminated or three years from the date of hire—whichever time span is longer. You can keep the form in paper, microfilm/microfiche, or digital format. We encourage employers to store I-9 forms electronically. That way, retrieving them is simple. Plus, there’s no danger of misplacing them, damage from flood or fire, or other common mishaps.
However, ICE does have rules for electronic systems that store Form I-9. For example, the system must have controls to ensure integrity, accuracy, and reliability. Safeguards must prevent or detect unauthorized additions or alterations and the ability to audit any changes. The system itself needs inspection and evaluation for quality assurance on a regular basis. Finally, the data must be indexed for easy record retrieval and all documents must be easily legible.
What If an I-9 Form Is Missing?
Ideally, you’ll want to figure this out before the federal government comes knocking at your door asking to see your records. It’s always possible for a business to make a mistake and forget a piece of new hire paperwork—especially if it’s actually a paper form. In that case, it’s important to complete the I-9 form as soon as you discover a problem. But don’t backdate the form to the date of hire. Complete it with the current date. Then, store it with a notation indicating that an internal audit caught the failure to complete in a timely fashion.
The easiest way to avoid issues like missing forms is to automate the onboarding process. That way, you’ll always have the most current version of Form I-9. Plus, you’ll find it easy to complete all forms within the required time period. For more information on how Efficient Hire can help you meet I-9 retention requirements, contact us today.