The U.S. Department of Homeland Security announced a new initiative and best business practices to help employers ensure they are building legal workforce through voluntary partnerships with the government.

Called the ICE Mutual Agreement between Government and Employers, the program is designed to build cooperative relationships between government and businesses to strengthen hiring practices and reduce the unlawful employment of illegal aliens. The initiative also seeks greater industry compliance and corporate due diligence through enhanced federal training and education of employers.

“Any comprehensive strategy to stem the flow of illegal immigration must address the thousands of employers that hire illegal aliens both wittingly and unwittingly,” says DHS Secretary Michael Chertoff.

Under this program, ICE will partner with companies representing a broad cross section of industries so these firms can serve as charter members of IMAGE and liaisons to the larger business community. As part of this program, businesses also must adhere to a series of best practices including the use of the Basic Pilot Employment Verification Program, administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

ICE will provide training and education to IMAGE partners on proper hiring procedures, fraudulent document detection and anti-discrimination laws. ICE also will share data with employers on the latest illegal schemes used to circumvent legal hiring processes. Furthermore, ICE will review the hiring and employment practices of IMAGE partners and work collaboratively with them to correctisolated, minor compliance issues that are detected.

Those companies that comply with the terms of IMAGE will become “IMAGE certified,” a distinction that ICE believes will become an industry standard. Participation in IMAGE will help companies reduce unauthorized employment and minimize identity theft. An IMAGE participant can better protect the integrity of its workforce by helping ensure that employees are who they represent themselves to be.

As a first step, companies must agree to a Form I-9 audit by ICE. They must also use the Basic Pilot Employment Verification program when hiring employees. This Internet-based system, which is free to employers and available in all 50 states, provides an automated link to federal databases to help employers determine the eligibility of new hires.

For more information on this program and other USCIS verification programs, visit the USCIS web site at

In order to become IMAGE-certified, partners also must adhere to a series of best practices. These include creating internal training programs for completing employment verification forms and detecting fraudulent documents. IMAGE partners also must arrange for audits by neutral parties and establish protocols for responding to no-match letters from the Social Security Administration.    ICE is asking employers to establish a tip line for employees to report violations and mechanisms forcompanies to self-report violations to ICE.

You can find a full list of best practices and IMAGE program materials at

DHS news release