E-Verify is becoming an increasingly valuable part of the hiring process in the U.S. but is not currently mandatory for everyone. However, thanks to a law passed in the state of Florida, public and private employers in that state must comply with applicable E-Verify requirements beginning January 1, 2021. It is important to note that the new 2021 E-Verify law for Florida does not replace the current Form I-9 process. If you are one of these businesses or one of their potential employees, read on about the 2021 E-Verify requirements for Florida because your livelihood could depend on it.
While the Immigration Reform and Control Act that passed in 1986 does requires businesses to verify an individual’s identity and eligibility to be eligible to work via the Form I-9, the E-Verify program is not universally mandatory for all employers.
Those businesses required to utilize the program are usually asked to do so because they are:
- Mandated by an official legal ruling,
- Entering into federal contracts or subcontracts with a FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulation) E-Verify clause,
- Operating in a state whose businesses must use E-Verify.
With the passage of the 2021 E-Verify law in Florida, public businesses in that state are now required to use E-Verify.
How E-Verify Works
By federal law, businesses hiring in the United States must complete the Form I-9 process in full. The document is designed to verify employee information and document authentication. The data collected in this form is then used to complete an E-Verify case.
The program is internet based and businesses must open and complete a new E-Verify case for an employee no later than the third business day after their first day at work. Once the case is completed by an employer, the program then compares that information with data already on file with government agencies.
Depending on the specific situation of the employee in question, E-Verify can typically provide verification results in just a few minutes.
2021 E-Verify Requirements for the State of Florida
The new 2021 E-Verify requirements for the state of Florida were passed in the summer of 2020 and went into effect on January 1, 2021. In order to better understand how the new law will affect businesses and individuals, it is important to breakdown a few differences between:
- public employers
- private employers
Public employers are generally defined as entities in either county, local, municipal, regional, or state governments or community colleges, public schools, or state universities who hire people to perform work for them for payment.
According to the new E-Verify law, public employers, contractors and subcontractors in the state of Florida are required to officially enroll in the E-Verify program and utilize it to confirm work eligibility status for all new employees.
Due to this specification, the relationship between public contractors and subcontractors becomes more complicated. Subcontractors have to provide contractors with an affidavit showing that they do not hire or work with unauthorized entities. There are some provisions for unknowingly engaging with a subcontractor in violation of this rule, but resolving the situation can still be difficult.
Private employers are generally defined as an entity or person who transacts business in Florida, has a license issued by a state agency, and employs persons to perform labor or services in Florida in exchange for either salary, wages, or other forms of remuneration. There is no minimum threshold that triggers a private employer’s obligation in Florida to comply with the E-Verify law. The Florida mandate clearly indicates that the first requirement of a private employer is to make an offer of employment to an applicant AND the applicant must accept the offer before the employer takes any action to verify the employee’s work authorization. Once these two criteria are met, a private employer in Florida may choose one of two approaches to verify the new hire’s identity and authorization to work:
- Utilize the Federal E-Verify program.
- Maintain a physical copy of an employee’s Form I-9 supporting identity and work authorization documents for a minimum of three years post the initial hire date.
One note of particular importance under this new law is that in most cases, Florida private employers are not required to verify work eligibility of a continuing employee hired before 2021.
What Could Happen If You Violate the New 2021 E-Verify Law for Florida
For both public and private companies who have done business in Florida for many years prior, this new law can bring sweeping change, and with it an overwhelming amount of work. While all the extra effort required may be tempting to ignore, it is illegal to do so.
Depending on the unique set of circumstances surrounding each violation, those who do not abide by the new Florida E-Verify law may face significant punitive consequences that could result in:
- Licenses being withheld until an affidavit is provided,
- Permanent revocation of licenses for a specific business location,
- Complete revocation of licenses for a business to operate.
No business wants to find themselves without a license to operate when a little extra legwork to comply with the new Florida E-Verify law could have easily prevented it.
How To Simplify the E-Verify Process with Digital Form I-9 Compliance Software
One of the most overwhelming aspects of the Form I-9 and E-Verify process for employers is that it requires a great deal of information processing, which can lead to costly errors. However, employers may find that using digital I-9 compliance software can provide two key perks when it comes to also using E-Verify for employee work eligibility verification:
- Accuracy. Digital compliance software is designed to help employees and employers complete an I-9 form with minimal chances of human error. This is key as the information entered digitally into a Form I-9 is then used to auto-populate E-Verify program fields. The minimization of human error in one program leads to the same in E-Verify.
- Efficiency. To fill out a Form I-9 for an employee by hand and then manually enter information into an E-Verify case can be time consuming because it is twice the work, something many employers just don’t have time for. By using a digital Form I-9, it allows that information to be seamlessly transferred to E-Verify case fields without much extra effort. The software can save employers valuable time in the long run.
Any business in Florida should consider incorporating digital I-9 software that integrates with E-Verify into their hiring processes to ensure compliance and avoid common mistakes.