A visit from ICE – the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Immigration and Customs Enforcement – is a cause for concern.

Of course, there’s no need to panic if you’ve already taken the right precautions to avoid legal hassles with ICE.

However, if you haven’t completed your due diligence, you risk massive fines.

Worse, historically employers and their HR employees have also been jailed for violations.

So not only do you have to be diligent in organizing your I-9s, you have to be very diligent in your response to a notice of inspection (NOI).

Your response sets the stage for communication, either effectively defending your company or possible negotiations and a settlement with ICE.

Assuming you sanction your receptionist to accept and receive important documents like an NOI, require the person to immediately notify you and/or your second-in-command and your human resources manager.

Your attorney should advise you and take the lead. Otherwise, only a designated manager should have further contact with ICE.

You’ll be required by law to respond within three days – 72 hours.

What NOIs mean

ICE wants to see:

  • Your I-9 forms for both current and recently terminated employees
  • Payroll records
  • List of current employees
  • Information regarding the company’s owners

If an ICE agent shows up at your office with an NOI, here are two strategies:

1. Interfacing with ICE 

Don’t be lulled into thinking the person is on your side. Don’t let the ICE agent trick you into saying something that could be used against you later.

Assume the agent is there to build a case.

Be civil, honest, brief and thoughtful. That also means being careful what you say – like you would in a courtroom – don’t say more than is needed.

Don’t rush the process even if you’re confident. Take your full allotted time to respond.

Your immigration attorney should audit your paperwork.

Additionally, your lawyer should help you respond by interfacing with ICE – for the audit and any extenuating circumstances.

Ideally, you have been thorough in your planning.

However, if you’re unsure about anything mentioned in the NOI, it’s businesslike within the three-day period to ask for two things: Elucidation and confirmation of your request and ICE’s answer.

(Again, your attorney should be involved.)

2. Paper trail … paper trail … and paper trail

Accuracy is vital and make certain you make a list of the information you give ICE.

The ICE audit won’t be conducted at your office. It will be on ICE’s turf – the government office.

Consider giving the agent a carbon copy of your I-9 forms with supporting records. Then, ask for a receipt of your list and documentation.

Finally, keep careful notes of any verbal communication, and document all details in an e-mail or letter to ICE.

From the Coach’s Corner, more HR tips to avoid legal problems:

Employee Records: Which Ones to Save and for How Long — You don’t want to keep unnecessary employee records. Nor do you want to make a rash decision on whether to destroy records. Here are the laws you need to know.

Management/HR Tips: Checking References of Applicants –– Even if you believe you’ve found an impeccable candidate, you must conduct precise reference checks. If you don’t, you risk paying a high price later.

Legal HR Issues? Best Practices in Workplace Investigations –– As an employer, one of your biggest nightmares can be issues involving your employees. There can be many reasons to conduct an investigation. “Action expresses priorities,” said Mohandas Gandhi. So you should act quickly.

Avoid EEOC Legal Hassles over Unpaid Leave Requirements — You might want to review your current human resource policies. The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission has continued to push employers on unpaid leave under the Americans with Disabilities Act.

Management: 5 Most Common Reasons to Fire Employees — With difficult employees, you have two obvious problems – the impacts on your organization and the behavior of the individual. Here’s what to do.

With Fraud Running Rampant, How HR Can Help Prevent It — By taking alert measures, human resources can play a major role to put a dent in the global epidemic of fraud in the workplace.

Tips for Handling Your Employees’ Wage Garnishments — Handling wage garnishments of your employees’ paychecks – including communication – is a very sensitive issue. Here are four management tips.

“Success in management requires learning as fast as the world is changing.”

-Warren Bennis


Author Terry Corbell has written innumerable online business-enhancement articles, and is a business-performance consultant and profit professional. Click here to see his management services. For a complimentary chat about your business situation or to schedule him as a speaker, consultant or author, please contact Terry.