The federal E-Verify program has become familiar to more and more employers over the past few years. In South Carolina, Georgia, Florida and Virginia, among other states, laws already require employers to use (or soon to use) the system—and, now, North Carolina is joining in.
On June 23, 2011, Governor Perdue signed into law the requirement that North Carolina employers with 25 or more employees enroll in and use the federal E-Verify program to verify the work eligibility status of all new employees. Multiple phase-in dates provide significant advance notice for the state's employers. County and municipal employers are required to enroll in E-Verify beginning October 1, 2011. A private employer's deadline depends on how many employees it has in North Carolina: October 10, 2012 (500+ employees); January 1, 2013 (100+ employees); or July 1, 2013 (25+ employees). Private employers with fewer than 25 employees are exempt.
The program is currently free to employers. Registering requires entering into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with USCIS, the federal agency that administers E-Verify. The MOU outlines each participant's responsibilities and becomes a key resource for helping an employer understand what it must do to comply with the program's rules.
State laws mandating use of E-Verify do differ, but all participation requires carefully safeguarding the information provided to and received from the E-Verify system. And, all employers must still complete a Form I-9 for each employee.
Under North Carolina's new law, the penalty for failing to comply after an initial violation is $10,000, with additional fines for subsequent violations. As with most employment laws, the details in the agency regulations—here the North Carolina Commission of Labor—will determine the employer's exact compliance duties.
TIP: Private employers in North Carolina have between one and two years to get ready to participate in E-Verify. While the program may ultimately streamline the verification process, it will require HR personnel to learn new rules and regulations and to adopt new routine practices before its compliance deadlines arrive in 2012 and 2013.