After months of anticipation, the Senate “Gang of Eight” introduced their immigration bill – the "Border Security, Economic Opportunity, and Immigration Modernization Act" (S. 744) – in the U.S. Senate on April 17, thereby sending the debate on comprehensive immigration reform into full swing. Set aside for a moment a discussion of the pros and cons of expanding our nonimmigrant visa programs, providing a path to citizenship for the 11 million illegal immigrants currently living in our country, and building massive fences and using unmanned drones to secure our borders. More to come on those topics later. For now, one thing is certain – E-Verify will be mandatory for all employers in the near future.
S. 744 mandates that all employers use E-Verify and includes a phase-in period that ranges from 90 days to 4 years based on the type of employer and the number of employees. Failure to verify work authorization through E-Verify after the mandatory enrollment date raises a presumption that the employer knowingly hired an unauthorized worker.
Not only is mandatory E-Verify a part of the Senate comprehensive immigration reform bill, but it is also the subject of numerous other bills recently introduced in Congress. For example, H.R. 478, introduced in February, makes E-Verify permanent and mandatory and requires every person who hires one or more employees to use E-Verify. S. 202, introduced in January, expands the use of E-Verify and, among other things, requires employers to check the status of current employees within 3 years and allows employers to run a candidate through E-Verify as part of the application process. Currently, employers (except certain federal contractors) are prevented from using E-Verify for their current workforce and may not use E-Verify until after they have offered, and the candidate has accepted, a job.
In addition to the introduced bills mandating E-Verify, the program already has funding. In March, Congress granted USCIS an additional $111 million dollars to fund the E-Verify Program which indicates the importance Congress places on the E-Verify Program and signals that E-Verify is here to stay regardless of if and when comprehensive immigration reform occurs.
As of February 2013, more than 430,000 employers had enrolled in E-Verify. If you are already using E-Verify as part of your immigration compliance program, consider yourself ahead of the curve. If you are not yet using E-Verify, it is only a matter of time.