When the federal government’s enforcement strategy changed a few years ago, many organizations discovered that their I-9s were not fully in compliance. It was like discovering they had a hole in their boat. Consequently, those organizations reached for the first thing they could find to plug that hole; their existing all-in-one software vendors who already provided them with background screening, payroll, HR system, unemployment, benefits, applicant tracking, etc.
The Early Days of I-9 Software
In the early days of electronic I-9 software, the industry was grappling with incorporating compliant audit trails and electronic signatures, amongst other issues. Over time, USCIS regulations and guidelines have evolved but so too have ICE inspections, which have become more sophisticated, employing a larger number of auditors and advanced technology.
Over the years, I-9 inspections have increasingly included audits of electronic I-9 records in addition to the actual paper I-9 Forms. Auditors have also become much more adept at evaluating these electroinc records and determining if the I-9 software is compliant with their interpretation of the law. It wasn’t long ago that ICE agents would only ask for just the I-9 Forms.
Although organizations may have slowed the rush of water into their boats for the short-term with all-in-one vendors, top HR leaders have come to realize that they must develop ways to streamline organizational efficiency and reduce non-compliance risks. In fact, many fully believe that I-9 and E-Verify compliance is no longer a fixed target (if that ever was possible), but rather, a moving target.
The Maturing I-9 Software
HR executives and personnel realized that I-9 software which only streamlines the forms-filling process is no longer sufficient, or cost-effective. The software must be developed with continual compliance in mind, particularly when government auditors are becoming well-versed in singling out potentially non-compliant software features. The efficacy of vendors providing “letters of compliance” has waned given the continuing evolution of government regulations. With the impending I-9 proposed changes to go into effect in the next few months (if not sooner), HR leaders are realizing their I-9 needs require a more robust and specialized solution from a vendor that understands compliance and can continuously monitor government guidance in this space.
These days, HR executives can scrutinize their software options much more carefully when conducting due diligence. They’re demanding more adaptations to meet the continuing changes in the industry that all-in-one vendors simply do not have the vested interest, time or knowledge to meet. As the market for electronic I-9 software has matured, the shift to specialized software has been quite a natural progression.
Important ICE Inspection Trends
Prominent attorneys deep in the trenches of I-9 audits have noticed trends in how ICE agents have approached inspections with their clients. For example, clients who initially made a good faith purchase of what turned out to be non-compliant software, learned of the issues and later switched to a vendor with a stronger compliance system were more likely to receive credit from ICE for their efforts to achieve and maintain compliance. On the other hand, clients faced with the same challenges, who took no remedial action to either switch vendors, implement re-training, or some other form of compliance strategy received harsher scrutiny from ICE.
No matter how the die is rolled, the most important instruction (which we’ve stated many times in the past) is that the onus is on the employer to properly vet their software. The deficiencies found in an organization’s software will be directly attributed to the organization and not to the providing vendor.
Making the Switch to Specialized Software
With the amount of potential fines, bad publicity and other consequences as a result of non-compliant software, organizations have increasingly turned to LawLogix for help. In fact, LawLogix has migrated electronic I-9 data from ten different I-9 software vendors in the marketplace. With upcoming changes to the Form I-9, organizations are taking the necessary precautions to switch. Not sure if you are currently using an electronic I-9 solution that is compliant? We can help, contact us today.
Originally published by LawLogix Group Inc Reprinted by permission.
Ann Cun is a U.S. based immigration attorney who has helped companies in the technology, science, business, sports, entertainment and arts fields secure complex work visas for their employees. With more than a decade of experience as a paralegal and attorney, Ms. Cun possesses a stellar record of success. Her legal expertise also includes conducting internal I-9 audits for companies and developing I-9 compliant strategies and solutions. She is a graduate of UCLA and UC Hastings School of Law and has been invited to speak by the Bar Association of San Francisco and the American Immigration Lawyers Association on U.S. immigration related topics, as well as other international conferences. Ms. Cun is a contributing author and currently serves as Counsel and Principal Editor for LawLogix Group.