The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) passed in 1986 prohibits an employer from knowingly hiring, recruiting, or referring illegal aliens for work in the United States, whether the individual is in the country illegally or because their immigration and residency status does not allow employment. The law also extends to employers who discover that an employee is an illegal alien after hiring.

What Can an Employer Do to Avoid Hiring Illegal Aliens?

To prevent such problems, all employers are required to verify that all employees are legally authorized to work in the United States. This applies to organizations of any size and number of employees, and also applies to part-time employees, domestic help, and farm laborers.

As a warning, remember that this verification applies to ALL employees, whether the issue is obvious or not. An employer may run into discrimination problems if the issue of residency and immigration status is asked only of people who don’t “seem” American; that is, asking people based on race, nationality, speech, or cultural differences.

What is the Punishment for Employing Illegal Aliens?

The punishment for employing illegal aliens may include both civil and criminal penalties. Under civil law, knowingly hiring an illegal alien would lead to fines from $250 up to $2,000. If it is discovered that the illegal alien employee had filled out a Form I-9 (employment eligibility verification) incorrectly or fraudulently, additional fines from $100 up to $1,000 may be charged. Criminal punishments may include fines or imprisonment, but only if an employer is a repeat offender.

Are There Any Exceptions to This Law?

Yes, there are two exceptions to verifying immigration status. The first exception is the casual hire because this does create a valid employer-employee relationship. The only other exception is for employees who have resigned or have been terminated and have been rehired. If the rehiring takes place within three years from the date of their previous I-9 form, it is not necessary to complete another. Employers must retain the form for either three years after the employee’s date of hire or for one year after the termination or resignation of an employee, whichever is longer.

Do I Need an Attorney to Help With My Employment of Illegal Aliens?

Labor laws can be a very difficult to understand, particularly when dealing with illegal aliens. Consult an experienced contract attorney immediately if you have questions about hiring new employees or the risks of hiring illegal aliens.