One of the most frightening and costly implications of non-compliant onboarding is definitely the ICE audit. The legal and financial ramifications of failing to keep records that meet the agency’s standards can be severe. In a move that is typical for government attempts at making things simpler, the 2004 law permitting electronic storage of I9 forms just made things more complicated. Six years later, employers are still enormously confused about what they must do to meet these requirements.

Apparently, even ICE inspectors don’t really understand the rules either. They may demand types of documentation that aren’t even mandated by law. This puts employers in a tough position. They can either go above and beyond the actual rules to comply with what auditors expect, or argue over the fine print (which is not a behavior that is likely to endear an employer to the auditing agency).

Here are a couple of highlights about what the legislation means for employers from an implementation standpoint:

Physical I9 documents, if scanned into pdf or other electronic format, must be legible. This is an important point to consider for employers who are scanning a backlog of several years’ worth of paper I9s into a new, electronic system. Is the person doing the scanning double-checking to make sure none of the forms had a scanning error and that the each one is still readable in its scanned format? This is tedious work, and could easily be assigned to an entry level file clerk who may not understand the importance of absolute accuracy.

The software itself must be audit-ready. Whether an employer is using virtual data entry panels to collect information from new hires or scanning in documents by hand, the software must keep track of the creation and modification of any files. This information should include who accessed the files and when. There are additional requirements for preventing the accidental deletion of records, adequate backup of all files, and special stipulations regarding electronic signatures. currently has an article available that goes into each one of these factors in detail and does a great job of demonstrating how tricky it can be to get it right. Of course, at Emerald Software, we have been keeping track of electronic document requirements all along. Our Universal Onboarding software is designed to be compliant, easy to use, and transparent to facilitate internal and external auditing.