Fines Drastically Increased for I-9 and Other Immigration Violations

Effective August 1, 2016, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”), significantly increased civil fines for employers who commit I-9 and other violations of the Immigration Reform and Control Act (“IRCA”). The increased fines are a direct result of the Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015 (Sec. 701 of Public Law 114-74) (“the Inflation Adjustment Act”). The Inflation Adjustment Act, required all federal agencies to increase civil fine penalties to adjust for inflation.

Enacted on November 6, 1986, IRCA requires all employers to verify both the identity and employment eligibility of all employees. 8 U.S.C. § 274a.2 created Form I-9 as the way employers must document their compliance with IRCA. All employers are required to complete Form I-9 within three days of an employee’s first paid day of work.  In addition, employers are required to retain all Form I-9s for a period of three years after an employee is hired, or for one year after the employee is no longer employed (whichever is longer). Penalties for failing to comply with IRCA and 8 U.S.C. § 274.a.2 can range from civil fines, disqualification from government contracts, and criminal penalties.

Effective August 1, 2016, DHS increased civil fines for IRCA violations occurring after November 2, 2015. A breakdown of the new fines is set forth below:

Knowingly hiring or employing an unauthorized worker:  

  • First Offense
    • Old fine: $375.00 to $3,200.00
    • New fine: $539.00 to $4,313.00
  • Second Offense
    • Old fine: $3,200.00 to $6,500.00
    • New fine: $4,313.00 to $10,781.00
  • Third Offense
    • Old fine: $4,300.00 to $16,000.00
    • New fine: $6,469.00 to $21,563.00

 Error or omission on Form I-9:

  • Old fine: $100.00 to $1,100.00
  • New fine: $216.00 to $2,126.00

Unlawful immigration related employment practice:

  • First Order
    • Old fine: $375.00 to $3,200.00
    • New fine: $445.00 to $3,563.00
  • Second Order
    • Old fine: $3,200.00 to $6,500.00
    • New fine: $3,563.00 to $8,908.00
  • Third Order
    • Old fine: $4,300.00 to $16,000.00
    • New fine: $5,345 to $17,816.00

Document Fraud:

  • Old fine: $110.00 to $1,100.00
  • New fine: $178.00 to $1,782.00

As the new fine schedule indicates, ICRA violations can be very costly to a company. It is more important than ever that employers have comprehensive policies in place to ensure ICRA compliance. Companies that are unsure about their internal compliance policies and procedures may wish to hire an immigration attorney to conduct a review. In addition, companies that are unsure of their current I-9 compliance should also consider having an immigration attorney conduct an I-9 audit. Voluntarily rectifying I-9 errors and omissions may lead to a significant reduction in any civil fines levied by DHS.

If your company would like more information about ICRA compliance or an I-9 audit, Hartzman Law Firm is here to help. Our principal attorney, Daniel Hartzman, is an experienced business immigration attorney, who has helped businesses across the country meet their immigration needs For more information, please contact Daniel by email at, or by phone at (412) 495-9849.

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