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5 Best Practices to Optimize Your Predictable I-9 Process

Bridge Team Member

You’ve got a seamless I-9 process in place. It checks all the compliance boxes on review, verification, storage, and retention of documents.  Employees are happy with the process, and so are the talent leaders. So, for the most part, your approach is humming along.

But no matter how good your processes are, there’s always room for improvement. In a continually evolving arena like immigration, it’s best to implement I-9 best practices, optimize your strategy, and take it to the next level.

In this article, we’ll explore five best practices, helping your I-9 processes move from predictable to optimized.

Best Practice #1: Don’t Just Create a Policy, Train on It Too

Talent leaders know that policies and procedures create a roadmap for your team to follow. However, having a robust, written I-9 policy is critical to consistent management and oversight, leading to increased compliance.

But no matter how thorough and roust your policies are, if your employees don’t follow them, what good are they?

As a talent leader, it’s best to train and enforce your policies, making sure your team is on the same page. With the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) issuing $14 million in fines in 2019, all for I-9 violations, it’s critical to ensure that your team understands and implements your I-9 policies. 

Here are some five ways to train on your I-9 policies:

  • Make sure your policies are accessible so that employees can review them at any time. Storing your policies in a digital format increases accessibility on smartphones, laptops, and tablets. (Just make sure you have security measures installed on your employees’ tech).
  • Train repeatedly, not just once, allowing your team to retain the current information while updating any changes.
  • Test your employees’ knowledge with quizzes. Then, make it fun by implementing gamification.
  • Lead from the top. Show your team that the talent leaders are following the policies as well.
  • Explain the importance of following the policies.

Best Practice #2: Integrate E-Verify into Your I-9 Processes

Administered by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), E-Verify is an Internet-based system that confirms employment eligibility. It does this by comparing the information entered on the Form I-9 to SSA or Department of Homeland Security (DHS) records.

And, this may not be just a best practice. Depending on where your organization is located, it may be law. Almost one-half of all states require E-Verify for some or all employers. Additionally, if you employ federal contractors or subcontractors, then E-Verify is also required. Be sure to check with your employment or immigration attorney to see how E-Verify applies to you.

Best Practice #3: Create a System that Reminds You of Tasks

It happens to the best of us.  That top to-do item circled in red on your notepad or sticky note?  Somehow it never got completed in time. So now, you’re scrambling.

By implementing an automated task tracking system, you can get automated reminders of your tasks and their deadlines on your computer, smartphone, or tablet – tailored to your preferences.

For example, get a reminder when an employee’s visa is due, requiring changes to Section 3 of that employee’s I-9 form. Also, receive automatic reminders on the completion of a new employee’s I-9 form. The employee must complete his or her form sections on the first day of work—no exceptions. For the employer? You have three business days from the employee’s first day or work to complete the Form I-9; this is often known as the “Thursday Rule.” Staying within these rules and guidelines is essential to your overall compliance.

Best Practice #4: Be Proactive with Strategic Self-Audits

In a previous article, we’ve talked about self-audits for those talent professionals taking their I-9 processes from emerging to predictable.  But, since self-audits are so critical to mitigating risk, it’s worth some more ink to discuss them here -- as you optimize your policies.

When it comes to governmental audits, the more you can correct internally, on a proactive basis, will save you time, money, and frustration in the long run. And I-9 audits are no exception.

But, let’s face it. Complying with I-9 regulations can seemingly be a full-time job. According to Law.com, “[w]ith more than 1,200 rules and regulations, a 100+ page manual, and 15 pages of instructions, properly completing the I-9 form can be a daunting and complicated task. Thus, it is not surprising that on average, 76% of paper Form I-9s have at least one error, with a similar percentage of missing or incomplete forms.”

However, by conducting self-audits, you can spot inconsistencies and errors, giving you time to fix them in real-time and tweak your policies and procedures moving forward. To determine the frequency of self-audits, you should look at the size of your company and your turnover. The more employees you have – or the more frequently your employees turn over – the more regularly you should conduct a self-audit.

Best Practice #5: Leverage Technology to Ensure Compliances

Finally, consider leveraging technology solutions to ensure I-9 compliance regulations are followed accordingly. One benefit right off the bat is that digitizing your operations and processes can help eliminate the errors mentioned above, helping you comply with the regulations and further mitigate risk.

Secondly, technology can take on much of the administrative work in seconds, freeing talent leaders and their teams to focus on higher-human level activities, such as building relationships with other employees or customers.

Next, technology can help streamline your storage, tracking, and retention. For example, it can notify you when you need to update a Form I-9 or destroy a document . By simplifying your I-9 workflows through automation, technology can alert you of due dates, timelines, and milestones, as well as produce an auditable history that will come in handy for your internal audits or if ICE ever comes to the door.

Finally, and perhaps most importantly, technology helps you remain consistent while implementing your policies and procedures.  Applying consistent processes not only makes the lives of talent leaders easier, but it also creates a legally defensible process in case the government comes calling or an employee complains about your I-9 process.


Content in this publication is not intended as legal advice, nor should it be relied on as such. For additional information on the issues discussed, consult a Bridge-affiliated partner attorney or another qualified legal professional.

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