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  • Becca Niburg

Ready to work? Here's what you need to know!

Every employer in the United States is required to verify that the people it hires is allowed to work in the country. Employers use the same form for everyone they hire – whether the employee is a U.S. citizen, green card holder, or visa holder – everyone fills out the same document and has to provide the same information to the employer. Although immigrants face many restrictions in when they can accept employment, protections also exist to make sure that employers cannot discriminate against immigrants.

To get a job, a potential employee has to prove their identity as well as specific permission to work within three days of starting work. Some documents establish one element, some establish both. An employer should provide the government list of what documents are acceptable for both categories. An Employment Authorization Card (“permiso de trabajo”) or a green card with the person’s picture will generally be enough to fulfill both elements, but even if either of those documents are not available, other options exist. It is important to note that the employee gets to choose which documents to provide from the government’s list, the employer cannot require certain documents for this purpose. Also, the potential employee does not need to wait to receive a Social Security Number to start working (though it will be needed for tax purposes).


Here's the link to the government site so you know all the details about what is acceptable and what to expect: https://www.uscis.gov/i-9-central/form-i-9-resources/handbook-for-employers-m-274/handbook-for-employers-m-274


This week, the US Department of Justice released information about two settlements reached with two separate staffing company regarding allegations that the companies discriminated against non-U.S. citizens. As stated above, an employer may not require certain documents from its employees. One staffing company from New Jersey required either specific documents from the potential employees after discovering that the employees were not US citizens or required more documents than required by the form (for example, more than one document per category). The other staffing company from Texas limited certain positions to U.S. citizens and required additional documentation from lawful permanent residents for other positions. The actions by both staffing companies imposed restrictions on non-U.S. citizens which amounts to illegal discrimination. Both companies had to pay a fine to the government and retrain its employees.


Being prepared for the first day of work includes bringing appropriate documents to meet the requirements, but also knowing the appropriate questions an employer may ask and for what documents they may request. If something does not seem right, raise the issue with an experience professional or even call the US Department of Justice directly to report a problem or discrimination at 1-800-255-7688.

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