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In 2020, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis signed a new law into effect relating to employee verification. Historically, by federal law, when any employer hires a new employee – no matter the job – they have to fill out an I-9 Form. The I-9 Form verifies their identity and that they are eligible for employment. The new employee has to provide documents confirming this, such as a U.S. passport, Permanent Resident Card, or Work Visa for their employment and Driver’s License, ID Card, or Birth Certificate for their identity.

Employers also have the option to enter this information into E-Verify, a government service started in 1996 that compares the provided I-9 information to that provided by a variety of other government agencies. Use of E-Verify has been encouraged but has previously always been voluntary on the part of the employers. If it were federally implemented, it would require every new employee to get a new “permission slip” style approval in order to work, in addition to just proving eligibility through the I-9 documents. Critics of the E-Verify program have claimed that it is frequently filled with errors, uses private information, and could be used for racial profiling and discrimination.

Florida’s new law changes things. It is effective for all new employees hired to work anywhere in the state after January 1st, 2021. For public/government employers, such as schools, government buildings, and anyone who contracts with them, use of E-Verify for new employees is now mandatory. For private businesses, they are encouraged to use E-Verify but can still choose to use the traditional I-9 Form – as long as they personally make photocopies of the documents provided by the new employees and keep them on hand for three years after they were hired. Making copies of the documents was never required before.

This forces a lot of “new work” onto the employer. They now have to come up with their own system of preserving the documents and tracking any expiration dates from them. They will have to get new documents when the ones provided expire. This policy is now required by Florida law but not federally, which complicates things. However, the bill warns that any business can be asked at any time by the state to prove that they are following the new law. If they are not, they can lose their Florida business license. The state is making clear that they are very serious about this.

For immigrants with Work Visas, this makes the situation even more complicated. Most Work Visas expire after a year, which means employees would now have to present at least three documents over the course of three years to prove their eligibility instead of just one document at the time of their hiring. Many immigrants may not be aware that when they apply to have their Work Permit renewed in a timely manner under the same worker category, it is automatically extended by three months. This helps for those employees who are waiting to hear back from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) office while their expiration date is rapidly approaching. Employers also need to be educated about this USCIS rule.

The new Florida system is complicated and cumbersome, but it is now law. For help following it and getting your documents in order, contact Heitz Immigration Law today. We are here to help you live and work in the USA, and ensure that employers are following the law.

Nadine Heitz

Nadine Heitz is an immigration attorney in Lake Worth, Florida where she helps her clients obtain legal status in the United States. Book your consultation with her to find out how to solve your immigration issues and achieve your desired goals.