In order to work here in the United States legally, an individual must reside in the country on a valid visa, as a legal permanent resident or as a U.S. citizen. The responsibility of making sure that a prospective employee can legally work here in New Jersey falls to you as an employer.
Prospective employees must fill out Form I-9 and provide you with two forms of identification, one of which must be his or her Social Security card. This documentation establishes whether an individual may work in this country legally. Another way to verify this information is through the federal government's E-verify database.
Does the government require you to use E-verify?
The Social Security Administration and the Department of Homeland Security teamed up to create E-verify, which is a searchable database of Social Security numbers. It provides an easier method for businesses to verify whether their employees may legally work for them. There is also a photograph-matching feature. Using this system does not release you from the responsibility of requiring and filing I-9 forms.
If your business functions as a federal contractor, the government will probably require you to use the system. Some states already require their contractors to use the program, and it appears that a growing desire from the federal government and state governments to require everyone to use it exists, especially in the current political climate relating to immigrants.
How do you use E-verify?
When you sign up to use the program, you simply need to log in, enter the employee's information and wait for a response, which should only take seconds. You most often receive one of three responses:
- Employment authorized -- the employee is legally able to work in the U.S.
- DHS verification in process -- requires a manual review
- Tentative non-confirmation -- the information doesn't match
The latter two responses often require further action on your part and/or your employee's part. This could require some knowledge of immigration law in order to resolve. False positives do happen due to paperwork mistakes and other issues, but DHS and Immigration and Customs Enforcement may accuse first and ask questions later, especially these days. It may be in your best interest and the best interests of your employee to tread carefully.
You want to find the best people possible to fill positions with your company, and that could mean employing individuals from other countries. If that is the case and a problem arises when using E-verify, you may want to be prepared for what may come next.