On December 3, 2014, Governor Rick Perry of Texas issued an executive order requiring all Texas state agencies and their contractors to use E-Verify, the federal government’s electronic employment eligibility verification system. This broad order could affect hundreds of companies and firms doing business with the state of Texas.
If your Texas company comes under Governor Perry’s executive order or if you voluntarily plan to use E-Verify, here are a few key steps you should take if you are new to the system:
Step 1: Choose and train staff who will administer the E-Verify checks. Any employee that uses E-Verify must be thoroughly trained and periodically re-trained in its procedures and policies. One wrong step can result in fines and penalties for the company, including back wages for employees who are fired because of misinterpretation of E-Verify results.
Step 2: Know your legal obligations. The responsibilities of all employers that use E-Verify can be found in the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). Read the MOU thoroughly! It lists 15 employer responsibilities that must be followed strictly. For example, participating employers must allow the DHS or SSA to come on-site and review their E-Verify-related and employment records.
Step 3: Complete and maintain I-9 forms. The E-Verify program is not a substitute for long-established I-9 procedures. Employers must continue to follow I-9 rules for employment verification in addition to performing E-Verify screenings. Make sure your staff is thoroughly trained in I-9 procedures before using E-Verify.
Step 4: Conduct an I-9 audit before enrolling in E-Verify. I-9 records have always been subject to government review or audit. But participating in E-Verify also gives DHS an additional reason to take a peek at I-9 records. To discover problems and avoid heavy fines and penalties, companies should conduct a private audit of its I-9 forms and procedures. A private I-9 audit can reveal a number of correctable errors and areas where additional staff training is needed. It will also expose systemic problems, such as the failure to keep required records, the failure to re-verify employment authorization, and the repetitive mistakes in completing I-9 forms. Indeed, more and more companies now demand that their contractors perform an internal I-9 audit of their own I-9 file.
Step 5: Contact an immigration attorney. Because the use of E-Verify is not risk-proof and the immigration laws change frequently, cautious employers should contact an immigration attorney before using E-Verify. An attorney can help train your staff in both I-9 and E-Verify procedures and conduct an internal I-9 audit that will help you spot problems before the government does.
The information provided in this article is intended to help you understand basic issues involved in the immigration process, and are offered only for general informational and educational purposes. This information is not offered as, nor does it constitute legal advice or legal opinions. You should not act or rely upon the information in this article without first seeking the advice of an immigration attorney.