DHS Expects “IMAGE Certified” Program to Become Industry Standard
United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement announced the introduction of a new business certification program aimed at developing a more secure workforce for employers. The ICE Mutual Agreement Between Government and Employers (IMAGE) offers employers a formal membership certification program that plans to reduce unlawful hiring practices and the use of fraudulent identification documents.
To participate in IMAGE, ICE announced an employer must meet the following requirements:
Complete the IMAGE Application Form
Enroll in the E-Verify program within 60 days
Establish a written hiring and employment eligibility verification policy that includes an internal Form I-9 audits at least once a year
Submit to a Form I-9 Inspection
Review and sign an official IMAGE partnership agreement with ICE
Enrolled program participants who maintain the Department of Homeland Security’s best practices for maintaining legal workforces will be “IMAGE Certified,” a standard DHS expects to become an industry standard.
However, employers can also incorporate ICE’s Best Practices without enrolling in IMAGE with the following:
Use the Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS) for wage reporting purposes. Make a good faith effort to correct and verify the names and Social Security numbers of the current workforce and work with employees to resolve any discrepancies. Remember that SSNVS is for tax purposes only and does not verify an immigrant’s employment eligibility.
Establish a written hiring and employment eligibility verification policy.
Establish an internal compliance and training program related to the hiring and employment verification process, including completion of Form I-9, how to detect fraudulent use of documents in the verification process, and how to use E-Verify and SSNVS.
Require the Form I-9 and E-Verify process to be conducted only by individuals who have received appropriate training and include a secondary review as part of each employee’s verification to minimize the potential for a single individual to subvert the process.
Arrange for annual Form I-9 audits by an external auditing firm or a trained employee not otherwise involved in the Form I-9 process.
Ensure that contractors and/or subcontractors establish procedures to comply with employment eligibility verification requirements.
Establish a protocol for responding to letters or other information received from federal and state government agencies indicating that there is a discrepancy between the agency’s information and the information provided by the employer or employee (for example, “no match” letters received from the Social Security Administration) and provide employees with an opportunity to make a good faith effort to resolve the discrepancy when it is not due to employer error.
Establish a tip line mechanism (inbox, email, etc.) for employees to report activity relating to the employment of unauthorized workers, and a protocol for responding to credible employee tips.
Establish and maintain appropriate policies, practices and safeguards to ensure that authorized workers are not treated differently with respect to hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee or during the Form I-9, E-Verify or SSNVS processes because of citizenship status or national origin.
Maintain copies of any documents accepted as proof of identity and/or employment authorization for all new hires.
If you have any questions regarding the IMAGE program, ICE’s Best Employment Practices or to schedule an I-9 audit, please contact your Monty & Ramirez Labor & Employment counsel.
Jacob M. Monty is the founding and managing partner of Monty & Ramirez, LLP. He is board certified in labor and employment law by the Texas Board of Legal Specialization. He is a member of the American Law Institute and named to Texas Super Lawyers in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011.