Employers soon will face harsher penalties for knowingly hiring undocumented workers. In a new final rule published in the Federal Register on February 26, 2008, the federal government has increased penalties for immigration violations to adjust for inflation. The new penalties go into effect March 27, 2008. The ramifications of the new final rule are significant and underscore the need for employers to implement comprehensive employment immigration programs.

According to the new rule, penalties for knowingly hiring undocumented workers will increase to a range of $375 to $16,000 per violation, depending upon the employer's history of violations, up from the range of $275 to $11,000 that has been in effect since 1999.

Document fraud penalties will now range from $375 to $6,500 per violation, up from $275 to $5500.

Penalties flowing from improper completion of I-9 forms will remain constant, at a range of $110 to $1,100 per violation.

Employers should remain cognizant of their continuing obligation to "toe the line" between ensuring that they are not hiring undocumented workers while not engaging in "unfair immigration-related employment practices," i.e., discrimination or "document abuse," the practice of requiring an employee to produce more documents than necessary under the immigration laws to verify employment authorization. Penalties for unfair immigration-related employment practices will increase to a range of $375 to $16,000 (up from $275 to $11,000), and penalties for document abuse will remain constant at $110 to $1,100.

The final rule is published in the Federal Register, Vol. 73, No. 38, pages 10130-10137.

The writing is on the wall, and in the law: employers should pay greater attention to creating a comprehensive employment immigration compliance program in order to avoid potential penalties for immigration violations. If you are an employer concerned about these issues, Ballard Spahr can assist you in adopting a program suited to your specific situation. We have immigration compliance attorneys on the east and west coasts who can handle all your immigration compliance needs nationwide.

Copyright © 2008 by Ballard Spahr LLP.
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