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”.