A critical component of the Comprehensive Immigration Reform package, put together by the so-called “Gang of Eight,” is a provision that would require all employers to participate in the E-Verify program.
E-Verify is an electronic employment eligibility verification system which determines whether information in a new hire’s Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification Form) matches government records. It is a voluntary program, except for certain federal government contractors and employers based in a handful of states.
This Act, called the Border Security, Economic Opportunity and Immigration Modernization Act, would phase in employers’ obligation to use E-Verify over a period of five years, depending on the number of employees of the employer. The Bill would require certain enhancements of the current program, including requiring non-citizen hires to have either a biometric work authorization or biometric green card and other anti-identify theft measures.
Many provisions in this mammoth 850 page Bill are controversial. However, the E-Verify provisions are, for the most part, not. If comprehensive immigration reform is adopted, employers should anticipate that this E-Verify provision, or something very similar to it, will be part of the law.
This development is encouraging employers to consider getting “ahead of the curve” and registering for E-Verify, particularly given the interim advantages. For instance, under current law, an E-Verify employer can obtain a 17-month extension of Optional Practical Training for foreign graduates. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services puts it simply: “Get with the program”.