When Staffing and Recruiting, You MUST Screen for Illegals

This is a change from the way the laws were enforced in the past, before immigration was such a hot button issue and the laws were not fully enforced.Now the law is much stricter, and individuals employing illegal immigrants will be prosecuted severely.

If you are involved in staffing and recruiting you need to be aware of employer responsibilities and the law. Below are some tips that, while not being legal advice, may help reduce your risk.

TIP #1: Hire Only Citizens or Authorized Aliens

It is simple really: hiring someone who is unauthorized to work is illegal. Period. Any “unauthorized alien” (someone who is not legally permitted to work in the country) is ineligible for work. Citizens and permanent residents (green card holders) are eligible.  Foreign students (those holding F-1 status) are eligible for a certain number of hours of work as long as they have form I-766 (an employment authorization document (EAD)). Aliens with H-1B status may also work, as long as they can present a form I-94 or I-94A, with an endorsement and reference of their status.

Hiring someone from one of these groups will keep you compliant. Anybody else is a no-go.

TIP #2: Avoid Asking About Citizenship or Work Status

It is very much against the law to ask someone about their work status in an interview or similar scenario. Under civil rights and discrimination laws this could land you in hot water. Asking an open-ended question about their legality to work is much more effective, and a question such as Are you legally able to work in the U.S.” will provide all the information you need.

TIP #3: Be Aware of Form Deadlines

Employers need to complete the I-9 forms that a legal alien under H-1B status requires to work. Normally these forms need to be completed within the first three days of employment. But if the employment period is less than three days, they must be signed and filled out on the first day.

Documentation of I-9 verification must also be kept for a certain time period (either for three years from the hiring date, or for a year after the employee has left). Remember to be organized and hang onto this documentation; it can be important.

TIP #4: Differentiate Between Identity Documents and Work Authorization Documents

Often you will need to verify both the identity of the employee, as well as their legality to work. Make sure you are aware of what constitutes identity documentation and what verifies legal work status.

Rely on current documents. Expired identification is useless, and potentially illegal. Also be aware that while a U.S. citizen’s Social Security card is valid for employment, other Social Security cards require separate employment authorization from the Department of Homeland Security.

TIP #5: Use E-Verify?

E-Verify is a web-based system that allows employers to verify employment eligibility. Enrolling for the system is free. It is designed to supplement, rather than replace, the I-9 forms.

Using E-Verify creates a rebuttable presumption of compliance.” I-9 forms still need to be completed and filed, but the web system can act as a legal defense if anything does go awry.

If you use E-Verify, be sure to inform potential job candidates. Use it only once you have made a hiring decision. Using it as a screening tool for applicant is also illegal.

If you are involved in staffing and recruiting, it is vital that you are aware of all the above. Non-compliance is simply not an option. Make sure you have employees’ documents on file, proving they are valid and current. And most importantly, verify legality to work. Be on top of your paperwork, in order to avoid any unfortunate lawsuits. Finally, remember that the laws against hiring illegal aliens are severe. Don’t assume the laws aren’t for you!