A recently enacted Florida immigration law will require private employers with at least 25 employees to use E-Verify, the digital immigration verification tool, during their onboarding process for new employees, starting July 1, 2023..
All private employers are required to complete the I-9 form within three days of a new hire’s start date to verify identity and ensure employment authorization in the United States for every employee.
E-Verify is an online tool that is operated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and allows employers that have completed Form I-9 to electronically verify employment eligibility for their new hires. Employers that use E-Verify must use the system to verify all new hires, regardless of whether they are U.S. citizens. The new law applies to new employees hired on or after July 1, 2023.
Gov. Ron DeSantis signed Senate Bill No. 1718 into law on May 10. It will increase penalties for noncompliance and for employers that knowingly hire undocumented workers. If employers use the E-Verify system in good faith, whether its use is mandatory or voluntary, the government will presume that they have not knowingly hired unauthorized workers.
E-Verify is an Internet-based system that compares information entered by an employer from an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to records available to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration to confirm employment eligibility. E-Verify is a free online service that electronically confirms an employee’s information against millions of government records and provides results within as little as three to five seconds.
If the employee records do not match, the system will notify the employer with a “Tentative Nonconfirmation” (mismatch) result. The employer must then give the notice to the employee, who has 10 days from the issuance of the mismatch to notify the employer whether they can resolve the mismatch. If the employee cannot resolve the mismatch, they are no longer eligible to continue employment, and must be terminated. Independent contractors and casual laborers are not considered employees.
Each employer that is required to use the E-Verify system must certify compliance on its first return when making contributions to or reimbursing the state’s unemployment compensation or reemployment assistance system. An employer that voluntarily uses the E-Verify system may make such a certification on its first return each calendar year in order to document such use.
Penalties will go into effect on July 1, 2024. Businesses have 30 days to cure noncompliance after receiving notice from the Department of Economic Opportunity (DEO), and the new law requires the DEO to notify a business prior to issuing penalties for violations. If the DEO determines that an employer failed to use the E-Verify system as required three times in any 24-month period, the department must impose a fine of $1,000.00 per day until the employer provides sufficient proof that the noncompliance has been cured. An employer’s first violation results in a one-year probationary period with reporting requirements to put a business on a path to compliance prior to any licenses being revoked.
Businesses with fewer than 25 employees can continue to use the Form I-9 to verify employment eligibility or choose to take the extra step of using E-Verify, which comes with heightened immunity protections. Employers that voluntarily use E-Verify may submit annual certifications for documentation purposes. The new law retains the current law requirements for public employers and contractors and subcontractors thereof to use the E-Verify system.
The bill, Chapter 2023-40, Laws of Florida, amends various Florida statutes to address provisions related to individuals in this state who may be unauthorized aliens. Among other provisions, the new law:
- Amends the crime of human smuggling to provide that a person commits a third degree felony when he or she knowingly and willfully transports into this state an individual whom the person knows or reasonably should know has entered the United States in violation of the law and has not been inspected by the Federal Government since his or her unlawful entry from another country;
- Amends the penalties for an employer’s noncompliance to register and use the E-Verify system, including imposing a daily fine of $1,000.00 and allowing for the suspension of employer licenses after multiple findings of noncompliance;
- Creates penalties for employers who knowingly employ unauthorized aliens, effective July 1, 2024, including quarterly reporting and the suspension or revocation of employer licenses in certain circumstances;
- Creates a third degree felony for an unauthorized alien to knowingly use a false identification document, or who fraudulently uses an identification document of another person, to obtain employment;
- Prohibits a county or municipality from providing funds to any person, entity, or organization for the purpose of issuing an identification card or other document to an individual who does not provide proof of lawful presence in the United States;
- Prohibits a person from operating a motor vehicle if his or her driver’s license is issued by another state which exclusively provides such a license to undocumented immigrants who are unable to prove lawful presence in the United States when the licenses are issued;
- Requires any hospital that accepts Medicaid to include a question on its admission or registration forms inquiring about whether the patient is a United States citizen.
Employers that want to enroll in E-Verify can do so, free of cost, by visiting the official online website: https://www.e-verify.gov/