Verifying Employment Eligibility Through E-Verify & Form I-9

The Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification Program (E-Verify) is a free and voluntary program offered by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). E-Verify allows participating employers to electronically verify the employment eligibility of their newly hired employees. Not all employers require such documentation; and participation in E-Verify is voluntary. Participating employers may require all citizen and non-citizen employees hired after November 6, 1986 and working in the United States to complete Form I-9. The purpose of this form is to document that each new employee is authorized to work in the United States.

How E-Verify Works

Section 1 of E-Verify requires non-citizen nationals of the United States to provide proof of authorization to work in the United States. They must therefore produce their employment authorization card (EAC) or other documents showing they are permitted to work legally. If the employees’ employment authorization has expired and they continue to work beyond the period indicated on the card, employers must re-verify the employees’ authorization to work according to USCIS guidelines. Some employees may leave Section 1 blank if their work authorization does not expire. Asylees, refugees, and certain citizens of former U.S. territories fall under this category.

Employers must complete Section 2 by examining evidence of their employees’ identity and employment authorization within three business days of the date employment begins. However, employers cannot specify which documents their employees present to establish such facts. The list of acceptable documents appears on the last page of Form I-9. Employees who cannot present any of the required documents may present receipts showing they have applied for an initial grant of employment authorization or for its renewal within three business days of the date employment begins. They must present valid replacement documents within 90 days or other specified time. Employees must present original documents and employers must sign and date the certification in Section 2.

Obtaining E-Verify Forms

Employers participating in E-Verify can download instructions and a blank Form I-9 through the USCIS website. They are responsible for retaining copies of the form for future reference. Employers may collect information to verify employees’ eligibility for employment under the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986, but may not use this authority to require more documents than are necessary to prove employment authorization or as a pretext to discriminate against an employee. It is illegal to discriminate against any individual in hiring, discharging, recruiting, or referring for a fee because of that individual’s national origin or citizenship status. 

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