It is the obligation of any employer in the United States to verify that its employees are legally allowed to work in the country. Several federal government agencies have a database system called “E-Verify,” and it enables quick verification of a person’s legal standing to work. In theory, the system bypasses the risk of fraudulent or fake government documents that employees might otherwise use to try to prove they are legally able to work. In practice, the system is not quite that simple. Here are a few E-Verify basics that employers should know.
E-Verify Is Sometimes Mandatory
Several state laws require the use of E-Verify, whether an employer is public or private. If you are a federal or state government contractor, it is also possible that you have no choice but to use E-Verify. The takeaway is that employers should check with the laws of their state to see whether they have a choice about using E-Verify. Even if they are not required to use this system, it may be required nationwide at some point, and because of that many employers are beginning to use it now anyway.
Expect Hiccups, Some More Severe Than Others
Just as pregnancy tests sometimes give false positives, E-Verify sometimes says someone is authorized to work when that person actually is not. Likewise, some people do not get confirmation of their legal standing to work even though, in reality, they have the legal standing. In many cases, mistaken government records are why this happens. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services has a website guide for individuals who get a nonconfirmation; you should encourage employees who believe they are legal to use it. Nonconfirmations are particularly frustrating if you have expended a lot of money and time training an employee.
Your Business Must Have a Certain Infrastructure in Place
While E-Verify is free on its face, your business must still pay employees for training time as they learn how to use the system and how to address nonconfirmations. You should also have ready Internet access to send information in on time, which is by an employee’s third business day on the job. Failure to meet requirements and deadlines opens your business up to large fines. Last but not least, the E-Verify infrastructure of your business should also include provisions to ensure the business is not discriminating against applicants.
E-Verify Provides Significant Peace of Mind
Despite issues such as the potential for the wrong confirmation information to come up, E-Verify provides significant peace of mind in many cases. Employers feel safer with the assurance that they have covered their bases and are as sure as they can possibly be that their employees are legally authorized to work in the United States. Employers correctly using E-Verify cannot be said to have committed a knowing-hire violation, which is severe. In addition, employers who may have been making common, repeated mistakes on I-9 forms should be alerted to these mistakes and become more compliant with the law.
E-Verify Can Delay the Need for an H-1B Petition
Some employers sponsor employees via H-1B petitions. With E-Verify, international students’ employers do not need to file an H-1B petition for an extra year.
Signing Up for E-Verify
If you want to start using E-Verify, enroll on the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services website. The registration process is relatively simple: you answer several yes or no questions, provide details on your company and certify that you understand E-Verify, among other steps. The program offers a tutorial to help you understand how to use the system, and once you are ready, you log in to verify employees’ Social Security numbers.In a nutshell, your business should check with state law or an attorney to see if it is required to use E-Verify. Even if it is not, there are good reasons to start using the service.
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