How can you know for sure that your employees are legally allowed to work in the United States? You looked at their identification when you hired them, but what if it was a forgery or expired? E-Verify is a federal database that you can use to verify the employment authorization of your workers. Once you enroll, you will log in to E-Verify after a new hire completes Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.
Participation in E-Verify is voluntary for most employers; however, many state laws or federal regulations may require it for certain businesses, including those with federal contracts. As of January 2015, 19 states have laws regarding E-Verify in some capacity. Employers in Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Utah must use E-Verify to ensure their employees are authorized to work in the United States. Some states only require the use of E-Verify once a business has a certain number of employees, so check your state laws for more information.
In April 2015, a bill was introduced to Congress that would require all employers to use E-Verify.
Form I-9 and the employee verification process
A 1986 law prohibits U.S. employers from knowingly hiring illegal workers. Because of this, all employers are legally required to verify that their employees are eligible to work in the United States. Within three business days of starting a new job, employees must complete Section 1 of Form I-9 and present acceptable documents to prove their identity and employment authorization, such as a passport, driver’s license, or Social Security card. You can find a list of acceptable documents in the Form I-9 instructions.
Once the employee completes these steps, you will fill out Section 2 of the I-9, attesting that you examined the documents and they appeared to be authentic.
E-Verify: An additional safeguard
Because a new hire could present fake documents to prove their identity, E-Verify takes the employee verification process one step further. With E-Verify, you can electronically compare the employee’s completed Form I-9 against data from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) including passports and visas, immigration records like green cards, driver’s licenses, and Social Security Administration records.
E-Verify also allows you to compare a photo of the employee to the photo identification they provided to you. Within seconds, you can verify that a new hire is authorized to work in the United States (indicated with an “Employment Authorized” message). If there is a possible discrepancy, you will also know immediately (indicated with a “Tentative Nonconfirmation” message). E-Verify will guide you to the next steps to resolve the possible issue.
There is no cost for you to enroll; however, you must sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU), a legally binding contract between you and the DHS. You must also complete a tutorial and pass a knowledge test with a score of 70% or better. You will have to take refresher tutorials as directed. The DHS website provides a checklist of everything you need to enroll in E-Verify.
(Note: The E-Verify enrollment and log-in screens currently do not work with all browsers. You must use Internet Explorer version 6.0 or above, Firefox version 3.0 or above, Chrome version 7.0 or above, or Safari version 4.0 and above.)
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This article was updated on 10/8/2015 from its original publish date of 8/30/2011 to bring the information up to date.