Since the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, employers are required to verify and authenticate their employees’ eligibility to work in the United States. Since the passage of this law, employers’ responsibilities are numerous and deadline-oriented when it comes to the proper completion of the Form I-9. The process can be tedious, which is why businesses are increasingly utilizing additional resources such as E-Verify and digital I-9 compliance software that includes an E-Verify component.
E-Verify is a free web-based system created following the passage of the United States’ Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996. The goal of the system is to aid employers with the eligibility to work verification process by electronically matching an employee’s Form I-9 information against records accessible by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
An employer is often better prepared to be I-9 compliant by combining thorough research on the Form I-9 process and using additional resources such as E-Verify and digital I-9 compliance software.
How E-Verify Works
The E-Verify system uses the information provided by employees on the Form I-9 to verify the employee’s eligibility to work in the U.S. The I-9 form is a one-page legal document that is required to be completed by employees and employers via specific guidelines and deadlines.
There are three main sections of the Form I-9. The first section is almost entirely dedicated to employee information and attestation. By the first day of employment, employees must accurately complete the form and employers should verify that the employee completed the section correctly. The second section of the form requires an employee to provide the necessary Form I-9 documents, and the employer must examine and vouch for the apparent authenticity of the documents…all within three business days of an employee’s first day on the job. The third section is primarily reserved for the purpose of reverification and rehires. This section must be completed if an employee’s name has legally changed, he/she is rehired within three years of the date on the Form I-9, or the employee’s work authorization has expired.
Once the Form I-9 has been completed by an employee, the employer can utilize E-Verify with that information to ensure work eligibility. The E-Verify program is geared to be user friendly and is accessible via the internet. It is designed to simply enhance the Form I-9 process, not take the place of it. To use the program to verify employee work eligibility, an employer must simply be officially enrolled.
E-Verify allows enrolled employers to verify each employees’ eligibility to work by electronically matching the Form I-9 information of employees to records accessible by both the SSA and the DHS. One of the bonuses of utilizing E-Verify is that it may even have access to a photo of an employee to compare with any photo identification he/she submitted to the employer. Photos can be an added layer of protection if provided by the E-Verify system.
In many cases, E-Verify can provide work authorization for employees in approximately twenty-four hours or less. However, in some cases a manual review of records within government databases may be required and could take an extended period of time. In this particular instance, E-Verify typically lets employers know if this is the situation and will then eventually follow up with the final results. If for some reason there is not a match on E-Verify, the system sends procedures to the employer on how to proceed with that particular employee.
Combining the E-Verify system and digital I-9 compliance software with the Form I-9 may be an employer’s best proactive effort when it comes to staying I-9 compliant.
A company’s I-9 compliance is evaluated during an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) worksite investigation, which may or may not be announced in advance. Any I-9 violations can result in substantial consequences and penalties. Violations can be criminal or civil and carry a fine per employee. These fines can add up when multiple violations are found, and they may ultimately negatively impact a company’s bottom line.
Is E-Verify Required?
In many cases, a company’s enrollment in the E-Verify program is voluntary, however there are some exceptions to this rule. Employers with federal contracts or subcontracts that include the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause are required to enroll. Businesses located within a state that mandates enrollment in E-Verify must abide by the law and do so. Some employers may also be legally required to enroll in the E-Verify program after a legal ruling is handed down.
The E-Verify program is currently available to all fifty states, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, Guam, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands.
An estimated 750,000 employers are thought to be registered with E-Verify, and twenty-two states currently require some type of participation.
While some companies choose to utilize the E-Verify system on their own, others who may experience a shortage of staff, time, and means often opt to hire an E-Verify employer agent to help them navigate the process. It is worth noting that these agents are not certified nor are their fees regulated by the government.
Benefits of an E-Verify Employer Agent
An E-Verify employer agent’s job is to work closely with a company and E-Verify to determine an employee’s eligibility to work in the U.S. In addition to federal law, these agents can also help companies comply with state laws.
In general, most E-Verify employer agents wear several hats and can assist companies with:
- Determining an employee’s work eligibility
- Conducting background checks for employees
- Providing legal assistance and accounting services
Take some time to research the E-Verify program and consider if it is right for your company. Regardless of your decision, the goal is to keep your company Form I-9 compliant and hopefully avoid violations and expensive penalties.