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U.S. Department of Homeland Security Nearly Doubles Fines for I-9 Violations

Publications - Client Alert | December 14, 2016

Section 701 of the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 (also known as the “Federal Civil Penalties Inflation Adjustment Act Improvements Act of 2015), requires all federal agencies to annually update “each civil monetary penalty provided by law within the jurisdiction of the Federal Agency.”

As a result of Section 701, the U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ), Homeland Security (DHS) and Labor (DOL) increased the civil fines for employers that commit immigration-related offenses, including Form I-9 and E-Verify violations, H-1B and H-2B program violations, the unlawful AND knowing employment of foreign nationals, and other unfair immigration employment practices. The new penalties, which went into effect on August 1, 2016, apply only to violations occurring after November 2, 2015.

The most substantial increases in civil fines involve I-9 paperwork violations. The penalties for I-9 violations were increased by 96% with a new range of $216-$2156 per I-9 violation. It is important to understand an I-9 paperwork violation can be as minimal as a missing signature, document title, or expiration date on a valid List A, B, or C document. It is essential that employers are filling out the I-9 entirely and correctly, regardless of whether the applicant is a U.S. citizen, to avoid potential serious fines levied by DHS.

With the United States’ executive branch now in transition, there is no better time than now for employers to ensure they are in compliance with the I-9 verification requirements. Employers should be regularly conducting self-audits and correcting Form I-9 mistakes discovered during the self-audit. In light of the civil monetary penalties almost doubling as of August 1, 2016, employers should actively review their I-9 and other immigration compliance policies. This regular self-audit can help mitigate possible fines if, and when, DHS comes knocking at the company door.

Additional Information

If employers have any questions or want to discuss their current I-9 compliance policies, they should contact Kutak Rock’s recently retained (and former DHS trial attorney) Clete Samson to discuss a review of their I-9 compliance programs. For more information on our employment law practice and for recent employment law news and alerts, please visit us at

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