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IMAGE

Your Workforce Compliance Partner

Undocumented noncitizens secure jobs through fraudulent means such as presenting false documents, completing fraudulent benefit applications and stealing someone’s identity. To combat unlawful employment and reduce vulnerabilities that help undocumented noncitizens gain such employment, ICE announced the Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers (IMAGE) program in July 2006. This program assists employers to develop a more secure and stable workforce. It also enhances fraudulent document awareness through education and training.

ICE has streamlined the IMAGE certification process. IMAGE now offers a formal membership certification program that focuses on exceptional employers that have the ability to effect change within their industry or region. These employers also serve as an example and role model in the business community while highlighting the importance and viability of immigration compliance. Program participants will be deemed IMAGE certified upon enrollment and completion of IMAGE membership requirements. Employer feedback on the IMAGE program and industry participation in IMAGE will serve to guide DHS in shaping future labor exploitation policy.

By voluntarily participating in the IMAGE program, companies can reduce unauthorized employment and the use of fraudulent identity documents. As part of IMAGE, ICE and U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will provide education and training on proper hiring procedures, fraudulent document detection and use of the E-Verify employment eligibility verification program. Members will also learn about the importance of avoiding discrimination in violation of the Immigration and Nationality Act’s anti-discrimination provision § 274B.8 U.S.C. § 1324b.

Employers seeking certification in IMAGE must agree to:

  • Complete the IMAGE Self-Assessment Questionnaire (Application)
  • 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 audit at least once a year
  • Submit to a Form I-9 Inspection
  • Review and sign an official IMAGE partnership agreement with ICE

Upon enrollment and commitment to DHS' best employment practices, program participants will be deemed "IMAGE Certified" – a distinction DHS believes will become an industry standard. The results of the IMAGE program will guide DHS in shaping future labor exploitation policy and legislation.

IMAGE members are required to participate in E-Verify, an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee's Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility. For more information about the Form I-9 visit I-9 Central, a website dedicated to making guidance more accessible and user-friendly. The site provides employees and employers with one online location to keep them up to date with the information needed to properly complete Form I-9.

The Department of Justice Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER), enforces the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act § 274B, 8 U.S.C. § 1324b. This statute prohibits discrimination in hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee that is based on an individual's national origin or citizenship status. The statute also prohibits discrimination during the employment eligibility verification (Form I-9 and E-Verify) process (document abuse), and retaliation or intimidation.

For more information see "How Employers Can Avoid Discrimination in the Form I-9 and E-Verify Processes".

Trade Association Certification

Trade associations can become "endorsee" partners by signing an endorsement agreement stating that they support and highly recommend the use of the IMAGE "Best Employment Practices" by their members. The above-mentioned process for business entities is not required for association partnerships.

For more information on the IMAGE program, please visit the IMAGE FAQ section. You may request additional information via the Information Request Form.

IMAGE Certification Benefits

  • Public recognition of the employer's IMAGE certification;
  • Avoidance of lawsuits and other legal actions resulting from unauthorized employment;
  • Brand name protection;
  • A stable workforce;
  • No Form I-9 inspection for a minimum of four years; and
  • ICE provided training and guidance on proper hiring procedures and fraudulent document awareness

IMAGE Best Employment Practices

  • Use E-Verify, the DHS employment eligibility verification program, to verify the employment eligibility of all new hires.
  • 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.
  • 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.
  • Establish a procedure to report to ICE credible information of suspected criminal misconduct in the employment eligibility verification process.
  • Ensure that contractors and/or subcontractors establish procedures to comply with employment eligibility verification requirements. Encourage contractors and/or subcontractors to incorporate IMAGE Best Practices and when practicable incorporate the use of E-Verify in subcontractor agreements.
  • 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.

IMAGE Forum & Training Series

Becoming an IMAGE (ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers) member is now easier than ever.

This training lasts from 8:30 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. and comprises Form I-9 training, USCIS E-Verify updates, Office of Special Counsel training and fraudulent document detection training. ICE revamped IMAGE, simplifying program requirements and the participation process. If you're an employer, join IMAGE for a series of forums across the country.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What is IMAGE?

IMAGE is a voluntary partnership initiative between the federal government and private sector employers. The initiative is designed to foster cooperative relationships and to strengthen overall hiring practices.

ICE has developed this initiative as a new concept for employer self-compliance within the worksite enforcement program, through which employers can achieve a lawful workforce through self-policing of their hiring practices.

Why was the IMAGE program started?

Many people are drawn to the United States in search of jobs. U.S. companies face fines and owners face possible imprisonment if they violate laws related to employment and employment eligibility. IMAGE was developed as an avenue through which ICE could offer assistance to employers seeking to avoid hiring undocumented noncitizens.

ICE recognizes that the highest level of employment integrity can only be achieved through close coordination with industry partners. Furthermore, industry self-policing will allow ICE to focus on other aspects of its homeland security mission.

The IMAGE program also serves to foster improved relations with private sector employers, and to help these employers to better understand their legal responsibilities when hiring.

Is IMAGE an employment eligibility verification system?

No. However, participants in the IMAGE program are required to use E-Verify, a free online employment eligibility verification system operated jointly by the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration.

The IMAGE Best Employment Practices go beyond electronic verification to help employers who seek to maintain the integrity of their worksites.

What are the benefits of becoming an IMAGE member?

IMAGE places an emphasis on self-policing in a company’s hiring practices. By following the prescribed steps of IMAGE, employers go beyond electronic verification to help maintain the integrity of their worksites.

In addition, IMAGE membership can enhance your corporate image by associating your company with sound hiring practices, and helps to secure the homeland by reducing opportunities to inadvertently hire unauthorized workers.

What does ICE agree to do as part of IMAGE?

IMAGE was designed as a partnership initiative between the government and private sector employers. To that end, ICE is committed to working with IMAGE participants in the following ways:

  • ICE will waive any applicable fines if any technical or substantive violations are discovered on the Forms I-9 reviewed as part of the inspection conducted, as long as there is no evidence of a criminal violation.
  • ICE will not conduct another Form I-9 inspection of the company for a four-year period.
  • ICE will provide information and training before, during and after inspection.

What is E-Verify?

E-Verify is a Web-based system that compares information from an employee's Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility. More than 410,000 employers, large and small, across the United States use E-Verify to check the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees, with about 1,600 new businesses signing up each week. E-Verify is fast, free and easy to use – and it's the best way employers can ensure a legal workforce. Visit E-Verify for more information.

Why does my business have to perform document checks?

Section 274A of the Immigration and Nationality Act requires employers to verify that all employees are authorized to work and have established their identities using the Form I-9.

What happens if I correctly complete an I-9 form and perform the E-Verify query and ICE subsequently determines...

What happens if I correctly complete an I-9 form and perform the E-Verify query and ICE subsequently determines the individual to be unauthorized to work in the U.S.?

If the employee presented the employer with documents that reasonably appeared to be genuine and relate to the employee presenting them, you cannot be charged with a verification violation. This type of circumstance underscores the importance of why ICE is advocating participation in the IMAGE program and E-Verify for all employers.

Updated: 10/20/2022