an employment eligibility and verification form

Address your I-9 questions and concerns before official audit

Author: Roger Tsai and Noah Lynch


Should an employer conduct an I-9 internal audit?


Yes. Any company’s HR department should regularly review their I-9 records for their employees. In light of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) temporary exemptions regarding I-9 remote verification that haven’t yet been made permanent, U.S. employers should ensure I-9 compliance by conducting an internal audit.

Generally, I-9s are often administered by a variety of HR personnel or other managers and employees with limited training. With rapid DHS policy changes as a result of COVID-19, it can be difficult for a company’s personnel to stay up to date on I-9 rule changes and ensure compliance in this new remote work era. This is why conducting an I-9 audit (to identify issues, verify and update records, and address any problems) would provide you with an indication of good-faith compliance with the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA).

Good-faith compliance is a primary defense in the event of a civil fine or criminal prosecution. Other indications of good-faith compliance would include annual training for your employees who consistently handle I-9s, as well as standard policies for reverification and I-9 processes. Internal audits allow you the opportunity to review the I-9s at your own pace as opposed to the 10-day notice provided before an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) audit.

During the I-9 audit, at no point should you discard or white-out mistakes on previous I-9 forms. Corrections or additions should be initialed and dated.

The primary focus of any internal audit should be on ensuring all current and recent employees have a completed I-9. This can be done easily by comparing payroll records against I-9 records. Copies of identity documents that have been retained should match the recorded information. If an employee has indicated temporary work authorization in Section 1, you should reverify when appropriate.

Roger Tsai is a partner in Holland & Hart, LLP’s labor and employment practice group. Noah Lynch is an immigration specialist in the group. They practice out of the firm’s Denver office, and you can reach them at and