By Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law


As I stated in my blog entry on October 19, 2017, Tom Homan, Acting Director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), announced an increase of I-9 Inspections/Audits "by four to five times." What can employers do to decrease their vulnerability to significant penalties if one is audited? There are two things to do which go hand in hand – implement an immigration compliance policy and conduct an internal I-9 audit. This blog will focus on drafting and implementing an immigration compliance policy. Part 2 will focus on conducting an internal I-9 audit.

As an immigration attorney who represents lots of companies in immigration compliance matters, one of the first questions I ask a new client is whether they have a written immigration compliance policy. Unfortunately, a vast majority of the companies say no or point to one paragraph in their employee manual.

Why should a company have an immigration compliance policy? There are many reasons but one of the most important is to identify the person in charge of immigration compliance. It’s amazing how often that simple question is met with uncertainty. As we all know, if someone does not take ownership over a policy that policy will flounder.

Here are other items that should be in an immigration compliance policy:
1. Determine whether copies of documents should be retained;
2. Determine whether the company should use E-Verify;
3. Determine if the company is required by state or federal law to use E-Verify or FAR E-Verify;
4. Zero tolerance policy for employment of individuals who cannot comply with work authorization rules;
5. Timing and procedures for regular internal I-9 audits to be conducted;
6. Rules on which management has access to I-9 records;
7. How often is training required for employer representatives, who are completing I-9 forms;
8. Define the required retention policy of I-9 forms – 1 year from employee’s termination or 3 years from original hire, whichever is longer;
9. Rules for working with outside contractors;
10. Re-verification procedures for employees with Employment Authorization documents;
11. Set protocols for interacting with government officials if ICE or another federal agency shows up at worksite; and
12. Policy on no discrimination of applicants/employees based on their lawful immigration status – citizenship, permanent resident, etc. or national origin.

For more information on implementing an immigration compliance policy and how to conduct an internal I-9 audit in advance of an ICE inspection, I invite you to read my new book, The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, which is available at