E-Verify Shutdown Means Return to Paper I-9s; H1-Bs Halted

logo-everifyHiring has all but stopped in parts of the U.S., casualties of the federal government shutdown.

When the feds went dark last week, the E-Verify system went offline. Although the feds have waived the rule that employment verification inquiries have to be submitted within three days of hire, some employers have put hiring on hold rather than risk running afoul of immigration rules.

Jerry Howard, chief executive officer of the National Association of Home Builders, told Bloomberg News that builders won’t hire help as long as the system is down.

In Arizona, one of the states where employers are required to be verified by the electronic E-Verify system, employment lawyers report getting dozens of calls asking what to do about new and pending hires.

“You can still hire,” labor lawyer Julie Pace told the Arizona Republic. “You just have to complete the I-9 form.”

That’s the same advice the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which runs E-Verify, posted on its website as the shutdown began October 1. However, the USCIS specifically warns, “This does NOT affect the Form I-9 requirement — employers must still complete the Form I-9 no later than the third business day after an employee starts work for pay.”

As the electronic version of the I-9 may not be accessible, employers are being told to use the paper forms and set them aside until the E-Verify system is operational. Attorneys with the international law firm Greenberg Traurig LLP counsel employers that processing the paper I-9 must follow the same procedures as the electronic version, and they may need to later transfer the paper copy information to the electronic system.

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Federal contractors, who are among those required by law to use E-Verify to check the legal status of potential hires, have it more complicated. They are directed by the USCIS site to contact their “contracting officer to inquire about extending deadlines.” The only problem is that person may be among those furloughed.

Employers are forbidden to take adverse action against any employee during the shutdown, including where an employee is the subject of a Tentative Nonconfirmation.

The shutdown is also affecting the hiring of foreign nationals. New green card applications and sponsorships through the Department of Labor’s foreign labor certification application (PERM) are on hold. Likewise, the Office of Foreign Labor Certification is not processing Labor Condition Applications. These LCAs have to be submitted in connection with new or extended H-1B status petitions for employees before the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services will act.

Consequently no new HI-B hiring can occur, and employees nearing their H1-B expiration may be forced to leave the country.

John Zappe is the editor of TLNT.com and a contributing editor of ERE.net. John was a newspaper reporter and editor until his geek gene lead him to launch his first website in 1994. He developed and managed online newspaper employment sites and sold advertising services to recruiters and employers. Before joining ERE Media in 2006, John was a senior consultant and analyst with Advanced Interactive Media and previously was Vice President of Digital Media for the Los Angeles Newspaper Group.

Besides writing for ERE, John consults with staffing firms and employment agencies, providing content and managing their social media programs. He also works with organizations and businesses to assist with audience development and marketing. In his spare time  he can be found hiking in the California mountains or competing in canine agility and obedience competitions.

You can contact him here.