Government shutdown: Employers confused by loss of E-Verify background check

The partial government shutdown has cut off U.S. employers from E-Verify, a federal web-based system designed to help them confirm the eligibility of employees to work in the nation.

According to the Department of Homeland Security website, the program is voluntary, except for employers with federal contracts or subcontracts that have the Federal Acquisition Regulation E-Verify clause. According to the Center for Immigration Studies, 20 states -- Alabama, Arizona, Colorado, Florida, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Michigan, Mississippi, Missouri, Nebraska, North Carolina, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Virginia and West Virginia -- have laws that require the use of E-Verify by at least some employers. Of those states, four -- Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi and Tennessee -- require all employers to use the system.

Related: What is a partial government shutdown? Departments affected by the shutdown

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported that the partial shutdown means employers are running into a wall when they try to use the system.

"Due to the lapse in federal funding, this website will not be actively managed," a notice on read. "This website was last updated on December 21, 2018 and will not be updated until after funding is enacted. As such, information on this website may not be up to date. Transactions submitted via this website might not be processed and we will not be able to respond to inquiries until after appropriations are enacted."

Another notice listed the unavailable services because of the lapse in funding.

Immigration attorneys say they continue to hear from employers confused about what steps they are legally required to take while the system is unavailable. Normally, companies have three days to check hires through E-Verify.

Related: Government shutdown: Trump says shutdown will last as long as it takes to fund border wall

Ian Macdonald, an Atlanta attorney who chairs the immigration group for the law firm Greenberg Traurig, said companies need to continue to fill out required forms on new hires, but they’ll have to remember to complete the process on E-Verify when the system is restored.

Credit: J. Scott Applewhite

Credit: J. Scott Applewhite

Both Macdonald and Atlanta immigration attorney Charles Kuck said they were not aware of any employers holding off on hiring because of the E-Verify situation, but they said there may be inconveniences and hassles down the road. The longer the shutdown lasts, the more employers will be rushing to put employees through the system when it is back up.

“It’s going to be a pain in the neck,” Macdonald said.

Kuck predicted that some unauthorized workers who would normally be flagged by E-Verify will manage to get and keep jobs until the system is back up. Meanwhile, employers will have spent time and money to train them, he said.

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