Most employers aren’t sad to see the rule go. This is largely due to the fact that even though millions of undocumented immigrants receive No-Match letters every year, so do legal workers, due to clerical errors, unreported name changes and other discrepancies. Regardless of the circumstances, the No-Match Rule would have put employers in the hot seat, requiring them to penalize or fire workers who were unable to correct their Social Security records in time.
In the rule’s place, the DHS plans to focus its enforcement efforts on employer participation in E-verify. This free, Web-based system, operated by DHS in partnership with the SSA, compares employee information from the Employment Eligibility Verification Form (Form I-9) against federal databases. “E-Verify is a smart, simple and effective tool that reflects our continued commitment to working with employers to maintain a legal workforce,” says DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano.
Like I mentioned earlier, it’s not like we didn’t see this coming. In a July 8 press release from the DHS, it was revealed:
DHS will be proposing a new regulation rescinding the 2007 No-Match Rule, which was blocked by court order shortly after issuance and has never taken effect. That rule established procedures that employers could follow if they receive SSA No-Match letters or notices from DHS that call into question work eligibility information provided by employees. These notices most often inform an employer many months or even a year later that an employee’s name and Social Security Number provided for a W-2 earnings report do not match SSA records—often due to typographical errors or unreported name changes. E-Verify addresses data inaccuracies that can result in No-Match letters in a more timely manner and provides a more robust tool for identifying unauthorized individuals and combating illegal employment.
What to do in the meantime?
Even though it looks like the DHS will not be mandating a “safe harbor” process for responding to No-Match letters anytime soon, you should still follow some basic precautions when screening and verifying an employee’s eligibility to work.
By law, you may not:
Set different standards for verifying employment eligibility or require that different documents be presented by different groups of employees. For example, you cannot waive I-9 requirements for individuals appearing to be U.S. citizens.
Require applicants to provide I-9 documentation before making a job offer. Legally, job applicants do not have to verify their identity or employment eligibility until they actually start work.
Specify or select which documents must be provided. The I-9 form lists the specific documents an individual may provide to establish his/her identity and work authorization. Employers must allow individuals to choose from this list of permissible documents.
Discriminate against individuals with “temporary” work authorization status. Temporary resident aliens and individuals who have asylum typically have documents that expire, but they ordinarily obtain extensions.