Employee Work Authorization Verification

Employee Work Authorization Verification https://wahospitality.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/hook-111316_6401.jpg

On March 1, 2003, the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) became part of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and its functions were divided into three agencies of that department.  The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is responsible for the administration of immigration and naturalization adjudication functions and establishing immigration policies and priorities.

This change affects restaurant owners because the restaurant industry employs a greater number of foreign nationals than do many other businesses.  While many foreign nationals are legally working in the U.S., businesses and business owners that have actual or constructive knowledge of a worker’s lack of employment authorization or who do not comply with I-9 verification rules could be subject to penalties, fines, and even imprisonment. Restaurant owners must take the following steps to ensure that each employee is authorized to work in the U.S.

Complete an I-9 form for every new employee.

The purpose of the I-9 form is to verify and document that each new employee is authorized to work in the U.S. If your I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification) forms are audited and the investigation turns up unauthorized workers on your staff, be on notice that you could very quickly, without warning, lose some of your employees.  Follow the proper procedures for completing the I-9 forms for every new employee.  Check the documents submitted by an employee carefully for forgery, changes or duplication rather than original issue, and do not accept expired documents.  When reviewing the submitted documents, ask yourself: does the document reasonably appear on its face to be genuine and relate to the person presenting it?  You should not specify which document(s) an employee may present as this could be considered discriminatory.  Detailed instructions for completing an I-9 form are available at: www.uscis.gov/files/form/m-274.pdf.

If your business is audited and there are errors or omissions on any I-9 forms, your business may be subject to fines or other penalties, even if the employees whose form contain the errors or omissions are legally authorized to work in the U.S.

Consider enrolling in DHS’s E-Verify system.

The DHS offers a web-based verification system, called E-Verify, that confirms an employee’s I-9 form and verifies work authorization in a matter of seconds.  Although the I-9 form is mandatory, E-Verify is not, unless your business is located in a state that mandates use of E-Verify (Washington does not require use of E-Verify at this time) or you are a contractor with a federal contract that contains the FAR E-Verify clause.  If you enroll in E-Verify, you must use it for all new hires—you may not use it selectively.  If the E-Verify database is unable to immediately confirm a new employee’s work authorization, it will provide steps to guide the employer and employee toward resolution.  More information about E-Verify is available on DHS’s website: www.dhs.gov/everify.

Consider verifying each new employee’s Social Security Number.

After you have hired a new employee, you can verify his or her Social Security Number (SSN) by using the online Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS) or Telephone Number Employer Verification service (TNEV) provided by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  Information about registering for SSNVS and

TNEV is available at the SSA’s website: www.ssa.gov/employer. The SSA will verify that the employee’s SSN matches a name/SSN combination in its database.  Please note that SSNVS and TNEV does not provide information about immigration status or work authorization and that you may not request a copy of the employee’s Social Security card.  Also, please note that if you choose to use SSNVS or TNEV, you should do so for all new employees who are hired after you put this practice into place; you should not use it selectively.  If you do institute this practice and you receive a response from the SSA that the information provided about an employee does not match the information contained in the SSA’s database, you should follow the “no-match” letter process outlined below.

Address Social Security Number “no-matches” promptly and appropriately.

You may discover that the SSN provided by the employee does not match a name/SSN combination in the SSA’s records.  You may learn of the discrepancy through your use of SSNVS or TNEV.  If you do not use those services, you may find out later, upon receipt of a “no-match” letter from the SSA.

There are several reasons why an employee’s SSN could result in a no-match.  You should not assume that an employee who triggers a no-match is not authorized to work, nor should you treat a no-match as a reason to immediately terminate, take other adverse action, or re-verify an employee’s I-9 form.  Taking any adverse action against an employee on the assumption that a no-match letter means the employee is not authorized to work could violate federal anti-discrimination laws.  Rather, you should review your records and respond to SSA as requested in the no-match letter.  You should also inform the employee of the no-match letter, ask the employee to confirm the information reflected in your personnel records, advise the employee to contact the SSA to correct and/or update his or her SSA records, and give the employee a reasonable period of time to address the no-match letter.  Additionally, you should follow the same procedures for all employees who trigger a no-match letter, regardless of citizenship status or national origin.

If the employee who triggers a no-match letter does not take corrective action within a reasonable time, you should give him or her a final warning and a specified period of time by which the no-match must be remedied.  If the employee still fails to correct the no-match within the specified time, termination for insubordination may be warranted.

Contact the appropriate agency if you have additional questions.



800.767.1833 (TDD)

Toll Free Forms Line: 800.870.3676

Bulk Orders (over 200 forms): 202.512.1800

Social Security Administration

General Hotline: 800.772.1213

Regional Employer Services – Washington: 206.615.2125


Rev. 03/09/12


This article is an excerpt from the Handbook for Excellent Restaurant Operations (HERO), published by the Washington Hospitality Association.  Want a hard copy of the whole manual?  It’s one of the many benefits of becoming a member!  Find out more about joining the Washington Hospitality Association here.

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Categories: HERO