Negotiating I-9 Fine Reduction: Strategies for a Successful Outcome
Navigating the complexities of employment eligibility verification is crucial for businesses, and internal corporate I-9 audits are a common aspect of ensuring compliance. If your organization receives a notice or is already being audited by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for I-9 violations, it’s important to secure experienced counsel who can assist with responding to ICE requests and negotiating a reduction in any assessed penalties by ICE via a Notice of Intent to Fine.
Understanding the Basis for Fines
Before responding to ICE audit requests or attempting to negotiate the fines with ICE auditors and counsel, it's essential to comprehend the basis for the fines imposed by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). Common reasons for fines include incomplete or incorrect Form I-9s, failure to produce documents for inspection, and substantive and uncorrected technical violations.
Strategies for Negotiation:
- Legal Counsel – Seek the guidance of experienced I-9 compliance attorney. Legal professionals can provide valuable insights into the specific nuances of your case and assist in crafting a robust strategy.
- Conduct an Internal Audit – Begin by conducting an internal audit of your I-9 records. Identify and correct any existing errors, ensuring that your organization is fully aware of the scope of the violations. This proactive step demonstrates to ICE your commitment to compliance.
- Demonstrate Good Faith – During negotiations, emphasize the proactive measures your organization has taken to rectify the violations. Highlight any training programs implemented to educate staff on proper I-9 procedures, showcasing a commitment to future compliance.
- Negotiate Based on Severity – Argue for a reduction in fines based on the severity of the violations. If errors were inadvertent and not indicative of systemic issues, present these facts to ICE. Illustrate that the violations were unintentional and have been rectified to prevent recurrence.
- Highlight Cooperation – Emphasize your organization's cooperation with the investigation. Provide evidence of transparent communication and timely response to ICE requests. A cooperative attitude can positively influence the decision-makers during negotiations.
- Financial Hardship – If the imposed fines present a significant financial burden for your organization, communicate this during negotiations. Provide evidence of financial hardship and request a reduction or installment plan to ease the financial strain.
- Consider Appeal – If negotiations do not result in a satisfactory outcome, explore the possibility of appealing the fines. Legal counsel can guide you through the appeals process, presenting additional evidence or arguments in support of your case to the Office of the Chief Administrative Hearing Officer (OCAHO).
Negotiating I-9 fine reduction requires a strategic and comprehensive approach. By demonstrating your organization's commitment to compliance, cooperating with authorities, and engaging legal counsel, you can increase the likelihood of achieving a favorable outcome. Remember that each case is unique, and tailoring your negotiation strategy to the specifics of your situation is crucial for success.
The above is informational and not intended to be legal advice. Please consult with an experienced business immigration attorney on your specific facts and circumstances before proceeding with any U.S. immigration strategy.