Business Law, Immigration Law, Labor and Employment

Employment Eligibility Verification for Small Businesses

The explosive immigration debate has polarized Americans, but one facet of the explosive debate typically flies under the media’s radar

Employers based in the United States have the legal obligation to verify employment eligibility for every prospective worker who walks through the company front door.

Events over the past 20 years have dramatically altered the way employers must confirm employment eligibility. The Department of Homeland Security has implemented several changes for how employers must verify the documents presented by job applicants, as well as started to enforce employment eligibility confirmation much more firmly.

I-9 Compliance

Under federal employment law, businesses of all sizes must complete the I-9 form within three days after hiring a job applicant. Applicants complete basic information that includes name, address, birth date, and Social Security number. Any mistakes or blemishes made by the job applicant requires an employer to start over with a blank I-9

However, many small business operators either fail to file the I-9 on time or they accept a form of identification not allowed under employment law.

In addition to the mandatory Social Security card, let’s review the four documents job applicants can submit to prove identification:

  • Driver’s license
  • State issued ID card
  • Military ID card
  • Passport

With the Identification and Social Security cards in hand, the small business owner or manager certifies the employees met the guidelines for submitting the legally accepted documentation. Over the past decade, the federal government has enforced the I-9 documentation process more rigorously. Employers store I-9 forms digitally, which offers small businesses an opportunity to verify job applicant information with the identification data stored in federal government databases.

Employers that store employment documentation electronically must follow the following federal guidelines:

  • Create reasonable protections to prevent unauthorized access
  • Permit federal government officials to search employment records
  • Allow government officials to make hard copies of the employment verification documents
  • Ensure the accuracy of each employee record

How to Use E-Verify

A rapidly growing number of small business owners and operators have turned to E-Verify for an expedient way to confirm employment eligibility documents. You access the employment verification tool at www.uscis.gov. Enroll in the program and sign a Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and Social Security Administration (SSA).

After a new hire completes the proper employment eligibility conformation paperwork, you then log on to the secure DHS website where you type in the name of the new hire, date of birth, and Social Security number. The system either quickly confirms eligibility or requests the new hire contact the SSA or DHS to discuss a potential problem.

If you have a new hire who must meet with DHS or SSA officials, the agency involved in the investigation will contact your small business within 10 days to confirm or deny the new hire’s employment eligibility.

Differences between Government and Employee Verification Information

The best case scenario occurs when a job applicant’s Social Security number matches what is stored in the DHS or SSA database. Sometimes, the information does not match because of the obsolete information stored in a government agency database. The federal government also performs random audits (also referred to as inspections) to ensure employer compliance with the new and strictly enforced effort to prevent the hiring of undocumented workers.

If a new hire cannot prove his or her identity, employers must immediate terminate employment to avoid stiff penalties that include fines and possible jail time for small business owners and/or operators. Employers that face questioning from the DHS should promptly contact an experienced employment law attorney who has established a strong record of litigating employment eligibility cases.

 

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