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Why You Need to Verify an Employee’s Residency Status

Aug 2, 2019

When hiring an employee, it’s critical to verify if that individual is legally allowed to work in the United States. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (“the Department”) recently began visiting businesses and requiring their owners to terminate anyone who is not legally permitted to work in the U.S. Position or tenure makes no difference. In fact, some of these people have worked for the same company for decades. So how does the government make this determination?

The Department reviews an employee’s Social Security number (“SSN”). The Department and the Social Security Administration keep track of individuals who cannot legally work in the U.S. or those who have erroneous SSNs (e.g., stolen, mismatched, made up). If a business is found to have hired someone who cannot legally work in the U.S., fines can be in the six- or seven-figure range.

Note, if you use a payroll company to help with employee onboarding, most of them will handle the process of verifying eligibility to work in the U.S. If you do not use a payroll service, someone from the business needs to make sure they are hiring eligible employees. Also, keep in mind that if you go the latter route, new hire paperwork can vary by state.

Here are some important steps to follow:

  • Make sure all I-9 forms are filled out appropriately. Complete the form and only accept approved documents, which are listed on the last page of the form.
  • Some jurisdictions require employers to use E-Verify, an online system that determines if a potential employee is eligible to work in the U.S. (
  • Create and distribute an orientation package to new employees. This should include a list of forms the new employee needs to fill out and information he/she needs to provide the company (e.g., emergency contact information, direct deposit, etc.).

For any business that employees illegal workers, reach out to your trusted business advisor and/or payroll service immediately to make sure that you are in compliance.

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Timothy Schuster

Mr. Schuster is a Senior Manager providing tax compliance services to individual filers, as well as assistance on tax returns for companies in the manufacturing and real estate industries.

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