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Social Security Numbers: BEWARE THE NUMBER 9!

Good help is hard to find these days. Finding great help at the right price is the goal of every business owner, but it seems like more of a fantasy rather than a reality. Whether you are looking for a long term employee or just some temporary help, there is a new issue employers are facing when it comes to their workforce. Is this employee authorized to work in the United States?
In recent years (and even more so in recent months), there has been a flood of people coming into the United States illegally. In 2014 alone there were approximately 11.3 million “unauthorized immigrants” in the United States and now that population makes up just over 5% of the workforce. While hiring an immigrant as an employee is not at all the issue, the issue is hiring an immigrant who has the right to work in the United States. It is imperative that employers confirm that new hires and potential new hires are indeed authorized to work in the United States.
Before reviewing the how and the why of ensuring work authorization, there is one very important fact to note. If a foreign born person (naturalized or not) is authorized to work in the United States, it is considered discrimination and illegal to deny anyone a position based solely on the fact that they are not a natural-born U.S. citizen. Doing so could result in severe fines, ranging from $375 (first offense) to $16,000 (third offense), and additional penalties for the employer. If an authorized-to-work potential employee applies for an open position, the employer must give them the same consideration all other applicants receive.
To ensure compliance with all laws and regulations, employers should IN ALL CASES verify an applicant’s authorization to work through the use of the I-9 form. This form should be filled out by each employee, completed by each employer, and granted approval by U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services before a single payment is made to an employee. The easiest way to do that is through the use of E-Verify.
E-Verify is a website that allows employers to quickly verify the status of any potential employee, ensuring that their payroll is legally compliant. The website (https://www.uscis.gov/e-verify) is easy to use and simply requires a quick enrollment (for the business) and registration (for a owner or manager to use the system). In Georgia, an employer is required to use E-Verify if they have more than 10 employees or if they have ANY public (government) bids or contracts.
QUICK TIP TO SPOT AN UNAUTHORIZED WORKER: the number 9. To those who cannot receive a Social Security Number (required to work legally in the United States), the IRS has issued Individual Tax Payer Numbers (ITINs), which are a 9-digit numbers that start with the number 9. According to the IRS, these cards cannot to be accepted as proof of authorization to work in the United States. If a potential or new employee cannot produce a Social Security Card, or it is otherwise determined that they are not eligible to work in the United States, said employee can be terminated without any further cause.
If you have any questions regarding employees or would like more information on E-Verify, please contact us and we would be happy to help you!
References:
Internal Revenue Service. Hiring Employees. February 26, 2016. https://www.irs.gov/Businesses/Small-Businesses-&-Self-Employed/Hiring-Employees (accessed February 29, 2016).
Krogstad, Jens Manuel & Jeffery S. Passel. 5 facts about illegal immigration in the U.S. November 19, 2015. http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2015/11/19/5-facts-about-illegal-immigration-in-the-u-s/ (accessed February 29, 2016).
U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services. Penalties. February 25, 2016. https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/penalties (accessed February 29, 2016).

 

Written by:

Miriam Holtzclaw