If your business hires employees, you should know about E-Verify. The federal program tries to ensure employers that their new hires are eligible to work in the U.S. It is potentially relevant for all employers, and even mandatory for some. So exactly what is E-Verify and how does it work?
What Is E-Verify?
Basically, E-Verify is an online system run by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services to help employers determine employee work eligibility. It is made to work simply with the Form I-9, a mandatory employee eligibility form.
What Does E-Verify Check?
Once you’re signed up, you can add the information from an employee’s I-9 and the system will compare that information with records that are available to various federal government agencies, like the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. This essentially gives you a simple way to verify whether or not a new hire is legally allowed to be employed in the U.S.
The program launched back in 1996 as a strictly voluntary program. DHS eventually started requiring federal contractors and vendors to enroll in the program back in 2007. It is still not required for all businesses on the federal level, though there have been talks of doing so. However, many states do have requirements in place for certain businesses.
Who Can Use E-Verify?
E-Verify is open to all U.S. employers. You can simply sign up on the website and add some basic information about your company to become a registered employer.
However, it is not a mandatory program for most employers. The exception is businesses that have federal contracts or subcontracts or want to apply for them. About 20 states also require at least some employers to use E-Verify. But most of those mandates relate to government contractors and not private employers. Check with your state legislature if you’re unsure about your specific requirements.
How to Use E-Verify
To use E-Verify as an employer, you first need to enroll your business. You can sign up online by adding some details about your company, like your name, location, and EIN. There are several steps to the online enrollment process. But the online platform will walk you through all of the requirements.
Once you sign up, you complete a tutorial walking you through adding Form I-9 details. Completion of that form is necessary before using the E-Verify system. Then whenever you hire a new employee, you can upload a few details from the form and the system will automatically run those details through the system to verify work eligibility.
In some cases, E-Verify will even supply photos that you can use to compare with the documents that a new hire presented to you, like Passports or Green Cards. This helps prevent fraud. This isn’t always available. But it may help employers limit the effects of identity theft and employee fraud.
Benefits of Using E-Verify
The idea behind E-Verify is that it makes checking employee eligibility fairly simple. This can help you ensure that your business is complying with all federal hiring regulations. The system also provides interactive training, error checking, usage reports, and dedicated customer service.
Of course, the biggest benefit of using E-Verify for some businesses is the ability to avoid legal penalties. On the federal level, you need to enroll in and use the system in order to obtain government contracts. And several states enforce penalties like loss of tax benefits or even loss of business license for companies that fail to use the system. President Donald Trump has also proposed making the program mandatory on a federal level, so any conversation about pros and cons could become irrelevant in the coming years.
Issues with E-Verify
For now, some arguments cast doubt on the benefits of using E-Verify, at least for businesses that are not required to do so. Accuracy is one of the main concerns. For example, identity theft issues may cause mistakes. And naturalized citizens must update their information with the Social Security Administration. This confirms their work eligibility. It takes time and leads to mismatched data in the system.
For small businesses specifically, some have also expressed concerns about the amount of time that the process can take. While there is no cost to use the system, it requires some work to set up an account and upload information for each new hire. This may not be a significant issue for large enterprises. But for small businesses that don’t have dedicated HR staff, any additional regulatory burden can dramatically limit productivity over time.
Additionally, once you enroll your business in E-Verify, you must use it for all new hires. You cannot pick and choose which people to run through the system. So if you decide to enroll your business, you need to commit to making E-Verify a regular part of your hiring process.
With the dedicated website and some logistical improvements made in recent years, the system is certainly easier to use than it used to be. That’s good news for those who have to use it. However, it’s still an additional task that may worry certain small businesses in the long run.
Image: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service/YouTube