In an immigration law context, employment verification refers to the employer’s responsibility to ensure that all workers are documented and are legally allowed to work in the United States. This is usually done through the I-9 document which verifies the residency and work eligibility for non-citizen aliens.

Employers may also utilize the E-Verify system, which allows them to automatically check and update employee information using computer database technology systems.

What Are the Penalties for Failing to Verify an Employee’s Immigration Status?

Failure to verify an employee’s immigration status can result in serious legal consequences. Penalties for hiring an illegal immigrant can include:

  • Civil fines
  • Criminal charges for intentional acts (such as assisting in the deception of an immigration authority)
  • Possible jail time for serious instances of multiple violations
  • Loss or suspension of the employer’s business operating license

Are There Any Defenses to Employment Verification Violations?

Yes- in order to be charged with a violation, the employer’s conduct generally needs to be intentional. That is, they must have intentionally failed to verify the employee’s documentation and work status. Or, they must have intentionally assisted the employee in deceiving immigration authorities. For instance, if the employer knew that the worker was not properly authorized to work in the U.S., they might be held liable for a violation.

On the other hand, if the employer took all necessary steps to verify the worker’s status, they will usually be able to raise the "good faith defense". That is, if the worker made a good faith, reasonable effort to comply with employment and immigration hiring laws, they can typically raise a solid defense.

An example of this is where the employee submitted falsified information that a reasonable employer would not be able to detect even by following all the precautions and steps.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

The intersection of employment and immigration requirements can often make hiring very complex for employers. You may wish to hire an immigration lawyer if you have any questions or concerns regarding the employment eligibility status of any of your workers. Your attorney can help ensure that you are abiding by the law, thus protecting your business and your company. If you need to attend a court hearing, your attorney can provide you with legal advice on the matters.