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OCAHO Reduces Fine for Employer's I-9 Violations

August 2012

By: Ryan M. Helgeson, Esq.

In June 2012, the Office of Chief Administrative Hearing Officer ("OCAHO"), which hears cases regarding alleged employer violations of I-9 compliance and fraud, reduced the fine imposed on an employer by Immigrations and Customs Enforcement ("ICE"). The employer failed to ensure that 18 of its employees properly completed Section I of Form I-9 and/or failed to properly complete Sections 2 or 3 of the Form for the employees.

ICE originally sought a total of $12,523.50 for the 18 violations. While OCAHO found the employer liable for all violations, it ultimately reduced the fine to $9,600 based upon ICE's incorrect use of fine enhancements.

An Ounce of Prevention is Worth a Pound of Cure

The lesson from this case is not that an employer has the ability to get its fines reduced through administrative procedures. Rather, the lesson is...poor I-9 compliance cost this small company $9,600, plus the attorneys' fees involved in a two-year process, to obtain less than $3,000 in reduced fines.

A proactive plan by the employer in this case could have saved it money and, just as valuably, time. A well-drafted I-9 compliance plan, Form I-9 training for the responsible parties, and annual internal I-9 audits are all cost- and time-effective ways to maximize compliance and minimize fines in the event of an ICE audit.

If you have questions regarding I-9 audits, Form I-9 training, I-9 compliance or any other employment immigration question [such as employment visas (including H-1B and L-1), labor certification and greencard applications for your employees], please contact Attorney Ryan Helgeson at 630.377.1554 or at ryhelgeson@wesselssherman.com.

About Ryan M. Helgeson

Attorney Ryan M. Helgeson works out of the firm's St. Charles office, assisting clients with various immigration matters. In his previous position, he practiced almost exclusively in business related immigration law with a Chicago law firm affiliated with one of the largest firms in China. This tremendous background has provided Attorney Helgeson with a wealth of experience representing a large volume of diverse business clients in all aspects of complex immigration law matters.

He has successfully procured for his clients a vast array of visas and other work authority, including H-1B and L-1 non-immigrant visa petitions, first/second/third preference employment-based immigrant visa petitions, as well as portability issues associated with these visas.

Additionally, Mr. Helgeson has practiced in the federal and state courts in Chicago in a variety of immigration law related and other business cases.