Verifying an employee’s identity and work authorization is an involved process that can be confusing. This is not surprising as E-Verify has only been around since 1997, and only strongly enforced in the past few years. Unfortunately, the confusing nature of E-Verify, as well as the I-9 form process, places a major burden on business owners. Small business owners who may be stressed for resources as it is, feel this burden the most. For this reason, many small business owners turn to services that can assist with the I-9 or E-Verify processes.
First, it’s important to note the difference between E-Verify and the I-9 form. The I-9 form is filled out by both employee and employer, and involves the employee providing proof of identification and work authorization to the employer, in the form of I-9 acceptable documentation. Once the I-9 form is complete, it is archived by the employer in the event that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) performs an I-9 audit of the company’s records. E-Verify is an online service provided by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) that takes information from the employee’s identifying and work authorization documents, and compares them to federal databases. Specifically, E-Verify uses databases maintained by DHS, the Department of State (DOS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA) to check the employee’s information.
This Is How The E-Verify Process Is Handled:
- Complete the I-9 form – Before E-Verify can be started, the employer must first complete the I-9 process. This is because the employer needs the employee’s identification and work authorization documents for E-Verification submission. Normally, when filling out the I-9 form, the employee is not required to provide their social security number. However, it must be provided if the employer will use E-Verify.For Section 2 of the I-9 form, the employee must provide at least one, but possibly two documents that satisfy identification and work authorization confirmation. These documents will be the foundation of an E-Verify case.
- Start an E-Verify case – With documents in hand, the employer can start a case in E-Verify. This must be done before the third business day after the employee starts working for pay. This is in addition to the I-9 form deadline, which requires employers to verify documents on their own prior to the employee’s third business day of work. Juggling these deadlines is one of the primary reasons why companies fail with I-9 compliance.
- Match photos – Some identifying documents, including a Form I-551 Permanent Resident Card, a Form I-766 Employment Authorization Document, a Passport Card, or a U.S. Passport come with a photo. If any of these documents have been provided, the employer will have an opportunity to compare them to any photos that are on file with federal databases. This provides another avenue to check verification.
- The DHS and SSA render a result – Once a case is submitted, the relevant federal agencies will compare the submitted data with their own databases. If no issues are discovered, the employee’s work authorization is confirmed. If a discrepancy is found, though, an interim result is returned.An interim result may be something benign. For example, the case may be referred to DHS for additional verification. This is normally completed within 24 hours, and may end in a positive result. The case may also return an interim result if the employee has visited an SSA office or contacted DHS, but additional time is needed to render a decision. And if some information is unclear, the employer will be notified to resubmit the clarified information.If, though, either the SSA or DHS returns a Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC), the employer must notify the employee in private and give them an opportunity to respond.
- The employee contests the TNC – The employee has eight federal business days to contest the result. This means providing everything they need to prove work authorization, and not just to get the process started. As such, they may need to visit an SSA location to sort everything out. In many cases, a TNC is the result of a simple issue that can be fixed readily, like proving a name change.
- The DHS and SSA render a final result – If the employee contests the TNC, the DHS and SSA will either confirm the employee’s work authorization or render a Final Nonconfirmation. In some cases, an error on submitted documentation, such as an incorrect expiration date on a driver’s license, will close the case and require a resubmission. If the employee chooses not to contest the case, then it is automatically closed with Nonconfirmation.
- The employer makes their final decision – If the employee’s work authorization cannot be verified, the employer may terminate the employee for this reason. There are serious legal and financial risks for keeping unauthorized employees on staff.
It should be clear that this is not a simple process. There are often many starting and stopping points, and many tight deadlines that must be adhered to without fail. An I-9 and E-Verify service can help employers navigate the process, ensuring that all necessary deadlines and information requests are satisfied.
Further, an I-9 and E-Verify service can provide proper archiving for I-9 forms, which is essential in the event of an I-9 audit. This includes off-site, secure storage, which provides peace of mind in the event of a devastating fire, flood or other disaster. With redundant I-9 archiving, business owners never need to worry about whether they are prepared for an audit as they always will be.