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Small Business Digest


Small Businesses Should Utilize E-Verify Database To Avoid Potential Pitfalls

Small businesses need to understand the importance of utilizing the government-based E-Verify database or face fines and/or other penalties.

E-Verify is an Internet-based system that compares information from an employee's Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and Social Security Administration records to confirm employment eligibility to work in the United States.

According to Ness, an immigration attorney with Parker Butte & Lane in Portland, OR, participation in E-Verify is the future trend.

She points out almost all immigration related legislation pending before Congress right now includes some form of E-Verify participation requirement.

As they prepare for the upcoming changes to immigration policies Ness offers the pros and cons of using E-Verify that small businesses should heed.


  1. Has a deterrent effect since it clearly sends the message that only lawful applicants need to apply.
  2. Offers a comfort level for Management and Human Resources Departments that all new hires are checked against government databases.
  3. Provides more opportunities to bid for federal/state/county government contracts either as direct contractor or even as subcontractor (since more and more contractors are requiring participation in the E-Verify program).
  4.  Participation serves as a valid argument for affirmative immigration worksite compliance for Management and Human Resources in the event of an audit, raid, or enforcement action by the government.
  5. The photo tool component of the E-Verify program serves as deterrent against identity theft.
  6. A recent enhancement to E-Verify has a Social Security Number locking ability by USCIS that identifies and deters fraudulent use of SSNs.


  1. Participation does not guarantee against government enforcement actions or audits.
  2. Grants the government broad access to all of the company's records (See MOU).
  3. Levies penalties for an employer's failure to report back to E-Verify should it continue to employ after a period of time an applicant with a "final non-confirmation" result.
  4. Participation requires centralized administration as well as designated and trained personnel that can pay attention to and consistently enforce all of the compliance requirements mandated by the MOU.
  5. Improper use of the E-Verify program for pre-employment screening or to re-verify current employees exposes employers to liability and potential legal action.

Ness argues that in today’s enforcement-oriented environment, employers should make certain they have an I-9 compliance policy in place and clearly articulate the company’s policy against hiring workers who do not have employment authorization. 

She adds “business owners also should be sure that their corporate attorney is knowledgeable about immigration law or has a working relationship with an immigration law firm that can advise them about immigration laws that could impact the organization, and who can represent the business in court in defense against government claims of employer violations.”

Ness also says the Obama administration is taking a hard line stance against employers – large and small - who knowingly hire undocumented workers, and levying significant fines upon those found guilty. Business owners should familiarize themselves now with the pros, cons and requirements of the E-Verify Program so that when it becomes mandatory in the near future, they will have systems already set up to meet the required conditions.

Gretel Ness is an immigration attorney at Parker Butte & Lane,. For more information call 1-503-241-1320 or visit

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