U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducts site visits to verify that an organization’s employers are all legally allowed to work in the U.S. They’ll be checking up on your I-9 records to start, and other documentation might be required.
The key to dealing with these site visits is to make sure everything is in order ahead of time. Here’s how you can be prepared for an ICE site visit before you need to be:
Get your I-9s in order
First, the basics. Make sure everyone that’s hired at your organization has a completed I-9 before they begin working but after they’re offered the position.
You should complete Section 2 within three days. If you don’t produce an I-9 for everyone, you could have to pay up to $1,100 for each violation, plus other penalties depending on the severity of the case. You don’t necessarily have to produce your I-9 documentation on the day of the inspection, though – you’ll have three days to get that to ICE.
With that in mind, it’s always best to be prepared ahead of time so you don’t risk being out of compliance with immigration law.
Have an ICE site visit plan in place
A site visit from ICE will likely be unannounced, just as visits from immigration authorities. That’s why it’s so important to come up with a plan of action in case the authorities drop by.
When you’re creating your plan, start from the beginning. What should the first person who sees an immigration officer in your workplace do? Your front desk staff (and all employees who work there) should know how to handle this situation.
It’s best to instruct your employees to be polite and helpful at first, but it’s more essential that they know exactly who to contact when an officer arrives. And, they should know who to contact if that first point of contact isn’t reachable.
The point of contact (and the back-up point of contact) should be someone who has access to immigration documentation for the worksite. That person’s first order of business – after they greet the officer – should be to contact legal counsel as soon as possible.
Generally, it’s best not to speak openly about your I-9s, or other immigration procedures without the green light from your attorney. That’s because anything you say to or around the official during an ICE site visit could be used against the company in the eventof a violation.
Conduct regular self-audits
Once your plan is in place for a site visit, your job isn’t done. Conducting regular internal audits of your I-9 documentation of current and sometimes past employees is critical.
These audits should be done consistently to verify the validity of each employee’s status. However, as the Department of Justice points out in its I-9 internal audit guidelines, these audits can’t be done in a discriminatory manner and should be transparent with employees.
If you find a discrepancy, it’s important to note that the employee is the one who should make the correction – not HR.
Here’s an cheat sheet to help you stay I-9 compliant in case of a site visit.
For more on what you need to get ready for an immigration site visit, tap into your Site Audit Survival Kit.