E-Verify is a free internet program that allows employers to check whether their immigrant employees are eligible for work in the United States. The program was initiated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 1997, but has greatly evolved since then.

It is estimated that more than 700,000 employers use the program nationwide, with about 1,400 new companies sign up for it each week. The use of the E-Verify program is mandatory in some states and for some employers.

How Does E-Verify work?

By law, an employer and employee must complete a Form I-9 once the employee is hired for pay. Next, the employer enters information from the employee’s Form I-9 into the E-Verify database and a case is created for the employee.

The E-Verify system will then run a comparison between the Form I-9 and the employee’s immigration information from other government records, including:

  • U.S. passport and visa;
  • Immigration and naturalization records;
  • State-issued driver’s licenses and identity document; and
  • Social Security Administration records.

The program will then create results regarding whether the information matches. These results may appear in as little as 3-5 seconds. If the information does not match, the employee cannot start working. The employer and employee have only 8 federal working days to resolve any mismatched or incorrect information.

When is an Employer Required to Use the E-Verify System?

Currently, E-Verify is not mandatory for all employers. However, registration with the E-Verify system is required in some employment situations, such as for federal government employees and some federal contractors. In addition, airport operators now have the option to use the program for their badging application process.

Also at least 20 states have laws pertaining to mandatory use of the E-verify program. Even in the states that have implemented the program, it is sometimes only required in certain counties or situations. Regardless, employers should become familiar with this program because it is likely to become mandatory in the future.

When Should I Consult an Attorney?

Laws requiring the use of E-Verify are constantly undergoing challenges regarding their legality and constitutionality, and may be mandatory for all in the future. If you are unsure of your state’s E-Verify laws, you should consult an immigration lawyer for advice and to protect from liability. An attorney will be able to keep you updated on the exact E-Verify requirements in your state, and can represent you in court if a claim arises.