According to U.S. Immigration Laws, arising out of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA), an employer may only hire or continue to employ individuals authorized to work in the United States. An employer must fully complete a Form I-9 for every employee hired after November 6, 1986. An employer must verify employment authorization of every employee.

I-9 Forms must be retained for at least three years after employment begins or at least one year after employment is terminated, whichever is later. I-9 Forms must be presented for inspection to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) within three days upon receipt of a written demand notice.

Civil penalties for individual violations range up to $11,000 per employee. Criminal penalties may apply for a “pattern” or “practice” of hiring individuals unauthorized to accept employment in the U.S.

It is illegal, however, to require employees to provide more documentation than prescribed by law in an attempt to comply with I-9 requirements. Any discrimination against employees based upon citizenship, legal immigrant status or national origin is illegal.

USCIS I-9 Audits

USCIS conducts audits in response to private complaints or reports, as well as on its own initiative. Complaints may be initiated by anyone. Most often complaints are filed by:

  • Your competitors
  • Your employees
  • Individuals you recently fired, or refused to hire

To avoid I-9 related penalties, you must:

  • Conduct periodical HR personnel training on I-9 compliance issues.
  • Conduct periodical private I-9 audits.
  • Consult an immigration attorney every time you receive a Social Security “No-Match” letter.
  • Immediately contact an immigration attorney upon receipt of a written demand notice from the USCIS.


Stelmakh & Associates law firm has in-depth experience advising clients on employment eligibility verification issues arising out of IRCA. Our representation includes Form I-9 employment eligibility verification compliance and Unfair Immigration Related Employment Practice compliance. Our attorneys assist our clients in achieving, maintaining and defending compliance with these sections of the law.

We offer various services, including:

  • Comprehensive HR personnel training seminars
  • Internal I-9 audits
  • Consultations

Employer Compliance Seminars

Our comprehensive seminars educate employers and their HR personnel on maintaining compliance with immigration laws. If your company would like to schedule a training seminar, please contact us at our San Jose office by phone at 206.605.0550, online or by email at [email protected]

What is an internal I-9 audit?

  • Identification of all employees hired, or rehired, after November 6, 1986
  • Creation of audit tracking forms
  • Matching of all I-9 forms with the audit tracking forms
  • Identification of common omissions and mistakes and their correction
  • Creation of a binder system for maintaining all I-9 forms and related information
  • Identification of all employees who are subject to I-9 re-verification
  • Creation of a tickler system for timely re-verification
  • Overall evaluation of I-9 corporate compliance
  • Training your personnel for future I-9 compliance