Employer Must Check Paperwork Before Hiring Noncitizens

Many illegal immigrants come to the United States to find work. When they hire illegal immigrants, employers take jobs away from citizens and permanent residents with green cards. Under federal law, companies are held accountable for employing undocumented workers.

Employers Must Verify Citizenship

The federal government holds employers responsible for determining if employees are eligible to work in the United States. Employers must request identification from potential employees, as well as proof of citizenship or a green card that establishes that the worker is a permanent resident.

Discrimination Is Illegal

Discrimination based on nationality is also against federal law. This can put employers in an uncomfortable position when screening workers for employment eligibility. They can't single out those who might not have been born in America and ask only them to produce documentation of citizenship. However, employers can require proof of citizenship from all new hires, treating everyone equally. Citizens can produce a birth certificate, Social Security card, passport, or naturalization papers. Permanent residents can offer their green cards.

Employers Must Complete Form I-9

After requesting proof of citizenship or work eligibility, employers must also complete a Form I-9 - also known as an "Employment Eligibility Form," for each employee. Employers must examine the documentation an employee has provided as proof of citizenship or permanent residency. They must then state on the form that the documentation appears to be authentic. The employee also has to sign the form under oath, indicating that he or she is eligible to work in the United States. Employers don't have to file the forms with a government agency, but they should retain the forms in case the eligibility of an employee ever comes into question.

Penalties for Misrepresentation

The government can hold employers both criminally and civilly responsible for misinformation included in an employee's Form I-9. If an employee provides fake documentation and the employer doesn't catch it, the employer could be liable. The employer must list details on an employee's Form I-9, explaining why it appears legitimate. Ignorance of an employee's immigrant status is not a defense.

Extra Effort Can Protect Employers

A federal government website helps employers determine that the legal status of the workers they're hiring. The E-Verify program allows employers to input information from a worker's documentation as well as other identifying information. The E-Verify program compares the submitted information to Social Security records and a Department of Homeland Security database. In some states, an E-Verify check is mandatory. In most states, it's optional.

An Immigration or Employment Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding employer responsibilities to control illegal immigration is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an immigration or employment lawyer.

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