All U. S. employers have been required to complete USCIS Form I-9 to verify the employment eligibility of all new hires. This process requires employers to confirm that they have verified a new employee’s eligibility to work legally in the United States after examining the employee’s identity and employment authorization documents within the first three (3) days of employment.
Today, many federal and state laws have been specifically modeled to increase both voluntary and mandatory employer participation in E-Verify, the federal government’s electronic employment eligibility verification program. E-Verify is an Internet-based system operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). Registration with E-Verify enables employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of newly hired employees. While E-Verified is mostly voluntary, participation is mandatory for all federal contractors and subcontractors, and several states have also implemented legislation requiring employers to confirm a new hire’s employment eligibility through the electronic system.
The I-9/E-Verify process may seem simple enough: Employers are liable for “knowingly” hiring, recruiting or referring for a fee “unauthorized aliens.” Most legitimate employers understand this rule, but there are many traps that could mislead even careful companies. Even the simple failure to complete the I-9 properly or a failure to retain the form for the required period can result in fines for each record keeping violation. In large companies, fines can easily reach millions of dollars. Similarly, the seemingly innocuous practice of asking an employee to provide specific documents to quickly complete Form I-9 can cause an employer to be investigated and prosecuted by the U.S. Department of Justice for immigration-related employment discrimination.
With the government’s focus on curbing illegal immigration by cracking down on employers of unauthorized workers, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is expected to heavily increase its civil enforcement activities nationwide, and it is working closely with the U.S. Department of Labor and other law enforcement agencies to bring large, high profile criminal actions against employers who have multiple problems, which can include immigration violations, labor law violations, document fraud, alien smuggling, and other offenses. These developments have made it much more important for U.S. employers to be significantly more vigilant in their immigration compliance efforts with the help of E-Verify.