by Jay Starkman, CEO of Engage PEO

    The duration and ultimate impacts of the shutdown of the United States government are, at this stage, completely unknown. One immediate consequence that employers must cope with is that the government’s E-Verify program has been suspended until further notice.

    E-Verify is an Internet-based free service provided by the government that allows employers (and prospective employers) to compare information from an employee’s I-9 (relating to the employee’s right to work in the United States) to data from United States government records. At least 20 states require employers to use E-Verify, while many others simply encourage it. According to the Department of Homeland Security, which operates the program in conjunction with the Social Security Administration, more than 400,000 employers across the country now use E-Verify.

    The E-Verify system is completely unavailable during the shutdown. Employer accounts cannot be accessed, employers are unable to review closed or pending cases, and no inquiries can be run. It is important to note that employers can still hire new employees during the shutdown, even in states where E-Verify usage is mandated, as the requirement has uniformly been suspended during the shutdown.

    The requirement to complete Form I-9 for new hires has not been impacted by the shutdown. In fact, the I-9 process is even more crucial to ensure new hires do not violate immigration laws. All employers should continue to complete these critical documents for all new hires within three days of beginning work.

    It is anticipated that United States Citizenship and Immigration Services will issue guidance upon the completion of the government shutdown. Extremely high utilization of the E-Verify program is expected once it becomes available though, so processing delays by the program itself are likely.

    Jay Starkman is the founder and CEO of Engage PEO. Engage provides hands-on, expert HR services and counsel to help clients minimize cost and maximize efficiency for stronger business performance through a full range of health and worker’s compensation insurance products, payroll technology and tax administration, risk management services and best-of-breed technology as part of an extensive suite of HR services. For more information visit www.EngagePEO.com.