United States: Federal Agencies Significantly Increase Fines for I-9 and Other Immigration Violations Effective August 1, 2016

The U.S. Departments of Justice (DOJ), Homeland Security (DHS) and Labor (DOL) announced higher civil fines against employers who commit immigration-related offenses, including Form I-9 and E-Verify violations, the unlawful employment of foreign nationals, unfair immigration employment practices, and H-1B and H-2B program violations. The new penalties will go into effect on August 1, 2016, and will apply only to violations occurring after November 2, 2015, when the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015, which mandated that federal agencies adjust all civil penalty amounts for inflation, was signed into law.
As the chart below demonstrates, the penalty increases are substantial, as fines are being adjusted for inflation from the date of their initial enactment. Most significant is the increase in the range for fines for mistakes or omissions on Form I-9 – known commonly as paperwork violations. These penalties will increase by 96 percent, to $216 – $2,156, from $110 – $1,100.

A comprehensive list of penalty increases is as follows:

What This Means for Employers

The increased fines demonstrate the government’s increased efforts to more vigorously enforce federal immigration laws and deter employers from hiring unauthorized workers. Given that the penalties for I-9 mistakes are virtually being doubled as of August 1, 2016, it is more important than ever that employers ensure they have comprehensive I-9 and other immigration compliance policies and procedures in place.