Abiding by the federal Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, businesses hiring employees in the United States are required to verify the employee’s eligibility to work in order to stay compliant with Form I-9 regulations that sometimes can include utilizing the federal E-Verify program. However, a new E-Verify law for Florida is changing the way the state does this process as it is now making E-Verify mandatory for public employers as of 2021.
How E-Verify Typically Works
To fully understand the new E-Verify law for Florida, a little background information can be helpful.
By federal law, all United States employers are required to have employees complete a Form I-9. The form came about from the passing of the 1986 Immigration Reform and Control Act which created the form to aid with verifying the identity and employment of a potential employee.
The Form I-9 has three main sections:
- Section One: This part of the form which requires personal information from the employee must be completed by them by the first day of employment. The employer’s responsibility is generally to ensure the section has been correctly completed.
- Section Two: This central section of the form is a little more in depth than the first as it deals with a review process and verification. An employee must present approved identification documents as noted by the Form I-9 to an employer. The employer then is required to review those documents for authenticity in good faith. This particular part of the form has to be completed within three business days of the employee’s first day on the job.
- Section Three: This last part of the form is reserved primarily for rehires and reverification and is handled primarily by the employer in the case that an employee’s work authorization expires, name changes, or rehire takes place within three years of the date on the original Form I-9.
Once the Form I-9 has been properly completed and the deadline for each section has been met, E-Verify can come into play. It is important to note that participation in the federal E-Verify program is generally voluntary unless a company:
- Is operating in a state requiring businesses to participate in E-Verify
- Is required to participate in the program due to an official legal ruling
- Participates in federal contracts or subcontracts with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause present
If for one of the above reasons an employer is required to use E-Verify, it may follow this pattern:
- Employer opens up a new case in the E-Verify system and completes it by the third business day from an employee’s first day on the job. An employer uses the information from the employee’s Form I-9 to complete the case form.
- E-Verify compares the information provided by the employer with that of information maintained by government agencies with the purpose of confirming an employee’s employment eligibility.
- Some E-Verify results can confirm an employee’s eligibility to work in the United States in five minutes or less. However, some results can take much longer.
New E-Verify Law for Florida
The state of Florida recently passed a new mandate in June of 2020 that requires all government employers and some private employers to use the federal E-Verify program when hiring employees as of January 1, 2021. Prior to the passing of this law, the use of E-Verify was not required by Florida. According to the legislation, the mandatory use of E-Verify will apply to public employers in Florida such as:
- Local agencies
- Public universities
- School districts
- State agencies
- Contractors and subcontractors for each of the above are also included
While private employers are not generally required to use the E-Verify system, they will have to do so if they contract with a public employer or apply for taxpayer funded incentives. However, in accordance with the law set to go into effect on January 1, 2021, even private employers who do not have to use E-Verify are required to keep copies of any documents used in completing the Form I-9 for a minimum of three years.
Regardless of public or private status, all employers in the state of Florida are still required to have employees fill out a Form I-9 as stated by federal law. The forms must be completed according to the specific deadlines mentioned on the Form I-9 and should be maintained accordingly.
As with any employer, failure to follow national and state regulations regarding the Form I-9 and usage of the E-Verify system can put them at risk for being found non-compliant.
How to Streamline the Use of E-Verify
The E-Verify program is designed to help verify and confirm authorization to work, which may help alleviate authentication pressure felt by employers as well as protect against document and identity fraud. Still, for those employers who are not accustomed to using the E-Verify program, it can be confusing.
Whether you are new to the program or not, a helpful resource in streamlining E-Verify processes can be digital I-9 software. It is intended to save employers time when utilizing E-Verify and give them an increased level of confidence. Some of the benefits of using digital I-9 software for E-Verify can include:
- A software application should provide printable checklists for both the employer and employee to help with preparation and keep the Form I-9 process moving right along.
- User-Friendly Prompts and Reminders. Since the Form I-9 is the basis of information included in E-Verify cases, it is crucial that the form be filled out correctly. The software can be setup to provide employers notification of incomplete fields, impending deadlines, and more. This can also help with minimizing errors on the Form I-9, which could lead to an employer being found non-compliant.
- Because the information for E-Verify is based on that provided in the Form I-9, the correct transfer of information from one form to the other is critical. Digital I-9 software should auto populate E-Verify fields with information from a digital Form I-9. This feature can help cut down on setbacks such as inadvertently transposing numbers.
The best way employers can be prepared for something like the new E-Verify law for Florida is to establish good Form I-9 procedures, understand how E-Verify works, keep up with federal and local changes, and enlist the help of digital I-9 software.