The E-Verify program took center stage when federal contractors were mandated to use the system in June. The mandatory E-Verify took many federal contractors by surprise and put other employers on high alert. The federal government issued a proposed rule on June 12, 2008, and solicited public comments. About 1,600 comments were submitted.
On Friday, November 14, 2008, the final rule for the E-Verify program was published in the Federal Register, together with summaries of the public’s comments and the government’s responses to the comments. To see the rule without the comments, go to the end of the document, but the comments and responses are helpful to the big picture.
Here’s the bottom line.
Starting on January 15, 2009, once you are awarded a federal contract worth more than $100,000 that has a performance term of 120 days or more, or if you have a subcontract worth more than $3,000, you will have 30 days to enroll in the federal contractor E-Verify program. Enrolling involves signing a non-negotiable Memorandum of Understanding with the Department of Homeland Security and registering the individuals who will be using the system. I suggest that you take a look at page 5 of the E-Verify User Manual to get an idea of your options and what it will be like to use the system. The people you select to be “users” of the system will have to register and take the on-line tutorial before you can actually begin using the system.
You might want to register now and begin using the standard E-Verify system for new hires to give get a head start before the deadline. If you are already enrolled in the E-Verify program as of January 15, 2009, and you have a qualifying contract or subcontract, you will have to modify your enrollment to switch to the federal contractor version. Within 90 days of enrollment as a federal contractor, you will have to begin using E-Verify for all new hires in the U.S. (including people who are not working directly on a federal contract), within three days after the employee begins working for pay.
There is one major difference between the federal contractor E-Verify process and the standard E-Verify process. Federal contractors will also have to run E-Verify on each current employee who was hired after November 6, 1986 and who is directly involved in work under the contract. The standard E-Verify process may be used only for new hires.
As you receive new contracts, or make new assignments of current employees to work on a contract, you will have 30 days to run those newly assigned current employees through E-Verify. You don’t have to run your current general administrative support and overhead employees through E-Verify if you don’t want to, but you will have the option of running all of your current employees through E-Verify. You might want to do this to avoid trying to figure out whether an employee is “directly” working on a contract. It’s also a good way to avoid accusations that you assigned an employee to work on a federal contract for discriminatory reasons. You have to give DHS notice if you decide you are going to use E-Verify for your entire post-11/6/86 workforce.
You will probably want to modify your employee information system now to include a way to track whether you have run each employee through E-Verify, and also (if you aren’t going to run all employees through E-Verify) to track whether the employee is working on a federal contract. You only have to E-Verify an employee one time, regardless of how many contracts the employee works on.
You will need to become familiar with some rules for avoiding discrimination while using the E-Verify. They are listed in the E-Verify User Manual. The most important ones are:
- Employers may not verify newly hired employees selectively, and must follow E-Verify procedures for all new hires while their company is participating.
- Employers may not request that the employee use certain documentation for Form I-9 or E-Verify purposes. (This would be considered to be “document abuse.”)
- Employers may not use E-Verify to discriminate against any job applicant or new hire on the basis of his or her national origin, citizenship, or immigration status.
- Employers may not use the system to pre-screen applicants for employment.
- Employers must provide their employees with an opportunity to contest a Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC). (This is what happens if the system finds a “mismatch” between database information and the information you submit about the employee.)
- Employers cannot take any adverse action against an employee based upon E-Verify unless the program issues a Final Nonconfirmation.
- Employee must continue to work during the verification process.
A good jumping off point for perusing the generous amount of information available on government websites about E-Verify is the USCIS web page.
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