Business owners received good employment news recently when a popular hiring tool received new funding from the federal government.
E-Verify, the federal online program used by employers to check potential workers' employment eligibility, has been extended through September 2015. Lawmakers and the president recently approved legislation that prevented the shuttering of the initiative, which had been set to expire on September 30, 2012.
All employers are required to verify the identity and the eligibility to work in the United States of all employees hired after November 6, 1986, by completing Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. The form must be properly stored by employers and made available for inspection by officials of various government departments, including the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
E-Verify is a free, government online system that allows an employer to compare information from an employee's Form I-9 to data from DHS and Social Security Administration records to confirm that new hires have the necessary authorization to be legally employed in the U.S. Participation in the E-Verify program is voluntary for the majority of employers. However, E-Verify is mandatory for government contractors and subcontractors. And some employers may be required by state law to use E-Verify. For example, most employers in Arizona and Mississippi are required to use E-Verify.
The National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL) website contains a handy chart you can use to check whether your state requires you to use E-Verify.
Participation in the E-Verify program continues to grow. Government statistics show that more than 387,000 employers of all sizes currently use E-Verify to check the employment eligibility of their employees, with about 1,200 new businesses signing up each week. Even if you’re not required to use E-Verify, you may want to consider participating in the program to verify the legality of your workforce.
How to use E-Verify
Before you can start using E-Verify, you’ll have to enroll your business in the program. It doesn’t cost anything to participate, but enrolling your business requires you to agree to the rules of the program and submit certain information about your business.
Federal contractors and subcontractors are subject to specific requirements regarding the use of E-Verify. If applicable to your business, consult the federal contractor section of the U.S.Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website for detailed information and resources for enrolling in and using E-Verify.
The following checklist can help you prepare for the questions E-Verify uses to guide you through the enrollment process:
- Who will electronically sign the E-Verify memorandum of understanding (MOU) on behalf of your business? (The MOU is basically an agreement specifying that an employer understands the terms and responsibilities of participating in the E-Verify program.)
- Which hiring sites will participate in E-Verify?
- If you are a federal contractor, which employees will you verify?
- Which business location(s) will access E-Verify?
- Who in your business will have access to E-Verify?
- Who in your business should be a program administrator?
Employers must complete the following steps in order to enroll in the E-Verify program:
- Answer four yes/no questions to determine your access method. (Access methods provide businesses with different functions within E-Verify. The four access methods are employer, E-Verify employer agent, corporate administrator, and Web services.)
- Select your organization designation if your business is a federal contractor or other special category.
- Review, acknowledge, and agree to the memorandum of understanding (MOU).
- Enter your business details.
- Enter your North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) Code.
- Provide hiring site information.
- Register E-Verify program administrator(s).
- Review and certify the information you entered.
- Print your electronically signed MOU.
It typically takes between 15 and 30 minutes to complete your enrollment in the program. However, you must complete the process in a single session, so make certain you allow enough time to complete the process.
It is important that you do not enroll your business in E-Verify multiple times. The E-Verify program will compare your information with a list of already enrolled businesses to determine if your business is already enrolled. If your business is already enrolled, it will delay your ability to participate in the program.
Detailed information regarding information to gather before enrolling and completing each step in the enrollment process, as well as a link to enroll, is available on the USCIS website.
Using E-Verify to confirm employee eligibility
Once you’re enrolled in the E-Verify program, confirming a hire’s eligibility is a three-step process:
- Create a case. Employers must use an employee’s information from Form I-9 to create an E-Verify case. The deadline within which the case must be created is the same as the deadline for completing the Form I-9: no later than three days after an employee begins working.
- Obtain results. A case result displays a few seconds after the employee information is submitted. The majority of the results verify an employee’s eligibility for employment almost instantly. In some cases, further action is required on the part of the employer or the employee. The response on the screen lets you know what action you need to take, if any, to obtain employment authorization.
- Close the case. When a final result is obtained, which in most cases is employment authorization, the case must be closed by the user in the E-Verify system.
For more information on the three-step process and what to do if employment authorization is not initially obtained, see the section of the USCIS website designated for participating E-Verify employers.
Outsourcing your E-Verify participation
Just as you may choose to outsource other employer responsibilities, you can outsource your new hire employment eligibility process. Depending on how many employees you have, to save time and staff resources, outsourcing this important responsibility may be well worth it. If you do outsource your E-Verify participation, you won’t even need to enroll in the program—your E-Verify employer agent must enroll your company in E-Verify as a client company under its E-Verify employer agent account.
Finally, as with any employer responsibility which you choose to outsource, be sure to select a reputable service to handle your employment verification duties.