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I-9 Audits: the Audit Process and How to Review Form I-9’s Internally

February 1, 2024

HR Managers face a wide range of complicated compliance and legal processes. Form I-9 and verifying an employee’s right to work as well as keeping all of this on file is among them. It is hard to know how to prevent an I-9 violation and what to expect if you are audited. Below is an outline of the audit process followed by some best practices for conducting an internal audit that you may find helpful.

The inspection process begins when U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) believes there is a violation, and they issue a notice of inspection notifying the employer they will be conducting an I-9 Audit. They will either issue a Notice of Suspect Documents or a Notice of Discrepancies depending on the suspected violation. They will then review the employer’s Form I-9 and related documents and determine if there has been a violation. If yes, they will determine if the violation is substantive or technical. Technical violations are issued a Notice of Technical Failures. The employer has the opportunity to correct the technical violations in order to be in compliance. Substantive violations are hit with a warning notice (if less than 10% errors) or an intent to fine followed by a settlement or a hearing. In a settlement, the employer simply pays the fine or they can request a hearing before an administrative judge. If there have been no violations found, ICE will issue a Notice of Inspection Results stating the employer is compliant. This is also issued once an employer has corrected any technical violations.

The best way to ensure you are complying and prepared if ICE issues a Notice of Inspection is to conduct an internal audit. Begin by gathering I-9 forms, either electronically or original, for all current employees and all terminated employees from the last three years. Complete any missing I-9 forms for current employees. Make sure you use the required U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services (USCIS) new Form I-9 which you can find on their website. Once you have gathered the required I-9’s you will then proceed to reviewing them. You will need to exam Section 1 and Section 2 as well as determine if any corrections are documented properly. The following are some key items to ensure you review when auditing your Form I-9’s:

Reviewing Section 1:
  • Ensure the employee’s name (list all past and/or present last names), address, and date of birth are completed.
  • Verify appropriate citizen or immigration status box is checked.
  • Verify employee has provided alien registration number or USCIS number if necessary.
  • Verify that Employee has signed and dated Section 1 by their first day of employment. (Make sure they put the date of signature and not date of birth on this part.)
Reviewing Section 2:
  • Verify citizenship/immigration status number, and employee name is consistent with Section 1.
  • Verify there is one document from List A or one document from List B or List C and all information is recorded accurately and entered under the correct list.
  • Confirm Employees first date of employment is entered and accurate.
  • Ensure representative has signed and printed their name and dated the form within three days of the employee’s first day.
  • Confirm your organization’s name and full address are recorded.
  • Verify copies of the employee’s documents if it is your organization’s policy.
Correcting Errors
  • Any single error is corrected by the employee drawing a line through incorrect information and entering the correct information and then initialing and dating the correction.
  • If there are multiple errors on a form, then complete a whole new section on a new form and attach it to the original with a memo outlining the corrections.
  • For rehires within three years of previous I-9 form, ensure that a block in supplement B is completed along with the representative’s signature and title. Use this same process if the employee’s work authorization has expired or if the employee’s name has changed.

Once you have reviewed all I-9’s, make any necessary corrections and obtain additional documentation needed from employees. The final step is to document your internal audit and store the documentation with the audited I-9’s. This is something that ICE will look at if you are issued a Notice of Inspection.

ASE Connect

Zywave HR Services Suite: This member exclusive resource has several resources regarding I-9 audits, including an infographic that outlines the audit process.  Access Zywave by logging into the ASE Member Dashboard.


By Lauren Stearns, courtesy of SBAM-approved partner, ASE. Sources: Zywave, USCIS

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