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I-9 E-Verify Immigration Compliance

IMAGE Continues to Sign Up New Companies; by Bruce Buchanan, Siskind Susser

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In the past year, at least 34 companies have signed up with ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE), a voluntary program that allows private industry to partner with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) to reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents.

ICE established the IMAGE program in 2006 to work toward a legal and more secure work force. As of December 31, 2013, there are 253 IMAGE members with an additional 108 companies awaiting IMAGE certification.

To qualify for IMAGE certification, a company must perform the following requirements:

  • Conduct self-assessments of their hiring practices to uncover vulnerabilities that could be exploited by illegal aliens;
  • Enroll and participate in the E-Verify program within 60 days.
  • Establish a written hiring and employment eligibility verification policy that includes internal Form I-9 audits at least once per year.
  • Submit to a Form I-9 inspection by ICE (but the employer will not be subject to another inspection for two years).

Upon enrollment in and commitment to the IMAGE Best Employment Practices program, participants are deemed "IMAGE certified". IMAGE also provides free training to all employers on how to complete the Form I-9 and how to detect fraudulent documents.

Among immigration compliance attorneys, voluntary enrollment in IMAGE is usually frowned upon because of the need to undergo an ICE I-9 audit, where a company could be fined for their substantive errors on I-9 forms. ICE has made some improvements to IMAGE, such as waiving potential fines if substantive violations are discovered on fewer than 50% of the required I-9 forms; and if over 50% of the I-9 forms have substantive errors, ICE will mitigate the fines to the statutory minimum of $110 per violation. However, ICE does not grant employers immunity from penalties for using IMAGE. Thus, an employer is still exposing themselves to potential liability by participating in IMAGE.

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Updated 06-16-2014 at 02:46 PM by BBuchanan

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