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How to Complete an I-9 Audit for your Dental, Optometry, or Medical Practice

We get it: You have a million things going on in your healthcare practice. Between caring for your patients, dealing with insurance companies, and trying to ensure you have enough employees to get through the day, you only have time to manage the important stuff. That's why when you hear words like "audit" and "I-9," a chill runs through your body.

That being said, ensuring you properly manage your paperwork is one of the most important things you can do in your practice. I-9s are critical documents. You need to ensure that they are stored properly and filled out appropriately. Otherwise, you may face serious penalties, including fines from the government. Fortunately, at HR for Health, we can help manage this process and ensure that this critical paperwork is appropriately cared for, filled out, and stored. 

What is the I-9, and Why is it So Important?

The I-9 is a document that every new hire must fill out. It is a government-mandated form specifically used to confirm the identity of all employees. It must be filled out regardless of whether the employee in question is an American citizen. 

To be clear, non-citizens can work for you! However, they must have all their paperwork in order, and the I-9 can be used to confirm this. This government requirement is why completing an I-9 audit is so important: Doing so can help protect you from legal repercussions. 

Once all employees have filled out the I-9, it is incumbent upon the employer - that's you - to maintain this paperwork. It must be maintained for the required retention period and produced upon the demand of government officials. Failure to maintain these documents can lead to heavy financial penalties.

For more information on I-9 storage requirements, click here.

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What are the I-9 Storage Requirements?

Untitled design (10)-1I-9s must be stored based on whichever is later: Three years from the date your employee started working or one year after your employee leaves the practice. After that time has expired, you are legally allowed to dispose of any such paperwork, as long as the employee has stopped working for you.

If they are still working for you, you must maintain the paperwork.

Keep in mind that per U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), the paperwork can be stored in numerous forms, including the original paperwork, electronically or on microfiche.

Completing an I-9 Audit

Completing an I-9 audit is beneficial in ensuring you have all of your employee’s accurate I-9 forms on hand. It can be time-consuming, but if you're going to do it, you need to do it right. There are a few steps involved:

  1. 1. Create a checklist of all employees currently working for you or who have stopped working for you, within the storage guidelines noted above. Locate their I-9 paperwork.
  2. 2. If you don't have it for anyone still working for you, have them fill out this paperwork. Be honest with them: There was an error in the collection of this paperwork, and it needs to be remedied per federal law. Generally speaking, you can just verbally say something to them, although you may prefer to put something in an e-mail or memo. HR for Health clients can easily do this electronically with our software.
  3. 3. Begin the audit of all paperwork on file, using resources established by the United States government to ensure that you are properly managing all paperwork. 

How Can an I-9 Be Filled Out Wrong?

There are many common errors on the I-9. Like any piece of paperwork, you must ensure that all sections are filled out and filled out accurately. When conducting an I-9 audit, check to ensure that all required sections are filled out. Furthermore, make sure they are filled out on the right date. 

Untitled design (11)-2Section 1 must be completed on an employee's first day, while Section 2 must be completed by day three. If dates are written in the wrong column, the mistake can be corrected by simply striking out the wrong date and putting it in the right column. Section 3 can be left blank in most cases as it is meant for rehires, but you may need to fill it in, if you rehire the employee within three years of the separation.

How Can I Correct an I-9 Error?

It is important for you to understand that errors made in good faith will likely not lead to any major legal or financial problems for you, provided you make an effort to correct these errors. The resources established by the United States government can give you specific guidance on how to correct each I-9 error. 

As a general rule, if the information is missing or inaccurate, correct it as soon as possible. From there, attach a memo (which you should sign and date) to the employee's file, explaining what the error was, how it was caught, and when it was corrected. You have a paper trail that explains the issue, as well as a record of your good-faith efforts to correct it. 

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How Can HR for Hire Help? 

We get it: This paperwork can be complicated, and you don't have the time to know how to perform an I-9 audit. At HR for Health, our cloud-based documentation storage, we can handle storing all this paperwork and managing all the updates to documents. We can advise you on audits, correcting errors, and minimizing the chances of a mistake being made in the first place by implementing a new hire checklist that manages your onboarding process. HR for Health’s electronic onboarding includes the I-9 form for processing, helping you remain compliant. Ready to get started or interested in hearing more information? Contact HR for Hire today to schedule a demo and learn more about how we can help your practice. 

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