Government shutdown causes E-Verify to be unavailable

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As the partial government shutdown continues to its 21st day, currently tying with the longest shutdown in U.S. history, you may be wondering if any of it will affect your landscaping business.

Currently, nine federal departments are affected, at least partially, during the shutdown including: Agriculture, Commerce, Justice, Homeland Security, Housing and Urban Development, Interior, State, Transportation and the Treasury.

One aspect that will affect landscapers is if they are hiring or plan to hire soon, as the E-Verify system is currently unavailable.

On E-Verify’s site, it says, “Due to the lapse in federal funding, this website will not be actively managed…E-Verify and E-Verify services are unavailable.”

Screen Shot 2019 01 11 At 9 25 37 AmE-Verify is a federal program that allows employers to confirm the eligibility of newly hired workers after they have accepted a job. Designed to prevent immigrants from working in the country illegally, the internet-based system compares an employee’s I-9 information to records from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration.

“There’s an irony there,” Julie Pace, an attorney specializing in employment and immigration law at the Cavanagh Law Firm in Phoenix, tells NPR. “We have an electronic wall for E-Verify that should be being used that the government has not funded.”

Using 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 legislation that requires some public and/or private employers to use E-Verify. Alabama, Arizona, Mississippi and Tennessee require all employers to use E-Verify.

Employers must initiate an E-Verify inquiry within three business days of hiring someone. Without this database, companies run the risk of hiring ineligible workers, resulting in wasted training and expenses if they later have to let the employee go once E-Verify is available once again.

This doesn’t mean landscaping companies can’t hire anyone during the shutdown, but they do need to plan to check all their newly hired workers with E-Verify once it is available again.

According to E-Verify’s site, the three-day rule for creating E-Verify cases is currently suspended due to the service being unavailable. However, employers are still required to complete a Form I-9 no later than the third business day after an employee starts working and comply with all other Form I-9 requirements.

Also, the time period for employees to resolve “tentative non-confirmations” (TNCs) is extended.

A TNC is when individuals need to provide additional information or run the risk of being labeled ineligible and fired. This can occur when a person is not a U.S. citizen or a clerical error like an incorrect birth date in the Social Security’s database causes a TNC. Typically, a worker has eight business days to correct a TNC.

E-Verify also says on its site, “Employers may not take adverse action against an employee because the E-Verify case is in an interim case status, including while the employee’s case is in an extended interim case status due to the unavailability of E-Verify.”

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) says it will provide additional guidance to employers once the agency reopens.

“USCIS has taken a number of steps to minimize the burden on both employees and employers, who can continue to hire, and we look forward to program services once again being fully functioning to the benefit of all Americans,” said USCIS Spokesman Michael Bars in a statement, according to NPR.

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