For companies still wondering whether spending a little now to implement a solid immigration compliance program is a sound investment, some recent immigration-related penalties provide compelling reasons to invest in training and compliance.

Remember—all employers have immigration-related compliance obligations regardless of whether they employ any foreign nationals.  Even simply falling short on one’s obligation to verify employment eligibility (the Form I-9 process) or discriminating against certain individuals during the Form I-9 process can trigger an investigation and penalties.

Penalties imposed in any given case are always fact-dependent, and of course the employer’s response to an investigation can significantly affect the outcome of any investigation.  Generally, however, immigration-related violations risk the following potential penalties:

  • Prison time (from up to six months for knowingly hiring an illegal worker to 10 years for harboring an illegal worker);
  • Civil fines (up to $16,000 per worker);
  • Asset forfeiture;
  • Debarment;
  • Loss of business license;
  • Lost productivity after a Form I-9 investigation;
  • Attorneys’ fees; and
  • Negative publicity.

 In addition, time, money  and other resources which would be better spent elsewhere have to be diverted to deal with any such investigation and its consequences.  Thus, it is vitally important to make sure you have, and are implementing, a legally-compliant immigration policy.  This is certainly one of those situations where you don’t want to be “pound wise and penny foolish”.