Whenever your company is looking to hire new, internationally based employees, it’s important to be completely familiar with all of the federal regulations associated with employee eligibility. More specifically, you should be familiar with the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which addresses information such as employment eligibility and non-discrimination against foreign workers.
As an employer, you are required by federal law to verify that an employee is actually eligible to work in the United States. Within three days of the hiring, you must fill out an Employment Eligibility Verification Form, typically referred to as an I-9 form. To do this, you will need to review a variety of documentation that confirms the employee’s citizenship—or documents like work visas that confirm the employee’s eligibility to work in the United States and its territories.
You are only allowed to request documentation from the employee that is listed on the I-9 form. In fact, any employers that ask for other forms of documentation not included on such a form open themselves up to potential discrimination lawsuits.
Once the form is complete, you are required to keep it in your files for at least three years after the hiring date or one year after the end of employment, whichever is later. You must then have this information prepared for presentation in the event of an audit by U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE). This agency regularly conducts workplace audits to ensure all employers are complying with federal laws related to employee eligibility.
Other provisions of the INA protect citizens and work-authorized individuals from outside of the country from discrimination by employers based on their immigration status or citizenship. This means employers are not allowed to discriminate against a potential employee on the basis of national origin or ethnicity, and are not allowed to subject employers of foreign backgrounds to unfair documentary practices in the process of employment eligibility verification.
In some cases, you might send an employee’s W-2 form to the Social Security Administration (SSA) and receive what’s called a “no-match letter.” These letters are sent when the SSA and/or ICE are unable to verify the employee’s information, such as a name or Social Security number. In this case, there is no match between this information and government records.
No-match letters do not necessarily mean an employee falsified information—they simply mean the information provided did not match government records. Firing an employee after receiving a no-match letter could be grounds for a discrimination lawsuit, so you should be sure to tread lightly around this issue.