How Do Immigration Laws Affect a Human Resources Professional?

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Immigration laws affect many aspects of business, including how human resource professionals are mandated to hire personnel. Both federal and state laws require businesses to request documentation of citizenship and immigrant status from every new employee as part of standard hiring practices. All businesses will follow the same federal laws as they apply to every U.S. jurisdiction. Since state laws vary, however, businesses need to stay current about state and regional laws that affect hiring practices. Failure to adhere to any of these laws can result in legal consequences for the business or those responsible for hiring.

Federal Law Requirements and Human Resource Responsibilities

Human resource professionals will be familiar with a federal form called an I-9. This document verifies information provided to employers by job candidates with regard to citizenship status. For any new hire, employers must view originals of a valid U.S. passport or any combination of other verifiable documents, including: a social security card, birth certificate, U.S. citizenship card or driver’s license.

HR personnel are responsible for completing I-9 forms on new hires within three business days and maintaining the completed forms on file. The Federal Government can audit businesses to see I-9 forms at any time. If forms are incomplete or inaccurate, businesses can be levied a fine, so HR professionals must be knowledgeable about legal policies concerning immigrant hires when filling them out. To help with the process, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services provides a voluntary program called E-Verify to assist employers with confirming the authenticity of requested documentation.

The Effects of State Law on Human Resource Professionals

Depending on where a company does business, state laws can complicate the hiring process for HR professionals. While the Federal Government encourages voluntary use of E-Verify, many states mandate it for hiring. Therefore, if companies conduct business across state lines, then HR professionals must understand how various state laws affect the hiring process. States may require that E-Verify be used to hire:

  • All employees.
  • Only public employers, state agencies and contractors.
  • Only state contractors.
  • Only regional employees according to local or municipal legislation.

Controversy surrounds the ethical use of E-Verify. Some states have rescinded use of it, while others are considering its use for the first time. Such shifting legislation affects the protocols that HR personnel are expected to enact in the hiring process.

Other Effects of Hiring Laws on HR Personnel

While HR professionals must follow the law to authenticate citizenship status for hiring purposes, they are also obligated to follow non-discriminatory hiring practices regarding immigrant applicants. This is a fine line that must be addressed by human resource managers through workforce training. Education about ethical hiring practices, appropriate I-9 completion, and when to use E-Verify, will enable HR professionals to more confidently enact their hiring responsibilities for all potential employees.

Human resource professionals have challenges when it comes to understanding the scope of legal issues surrounding immigrant employment. Their responsibilities regarding the legal hiring process are affected by federal and state perspectives that do not always agree. Competent HR professionals need to remain educated about their legal duties and ethical responsibilities when hiring new employees from any background. To help understand and keep up with changing immigration laws, HR professionals can participate in professional organizations like the Society for Human Resource Management to help guide them in their jobs.

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