What Florida Employers Need to Know About New E-Verify Requirements

What Florida Employers Need to Know About New E-Verify Requirements

Florida Employers Only Have Until July 1st,2023 to Prepare for the State’s New E-Verify Mandate

Updated: July 7, 2023

Florida business owners should act immediately to familiarize themselves with the Sunshine State’s new E-Verify mandate for private employers. As of the writing of this article, entrepreneurs only have what’s left of June to prepare. Those who don’t comply with SB 1718’s residency verification requirements will face stiff penalties, so keep reading to find out what businesses fall under its mandate, what’s required of those businesses, and what punishments await those who don’t meet the bill’s new standards.

We also have an important update about some related changes to verification requirements from the Department of Homeland Security that will take effect in August 2023.

What Are the New E-Verify Requirements for Florida Employers?

SB1718 was passed in an effort to stem illegal immigration to Florida. Starting July 1st, 2023, many private Florida employers will need to start using the national E-Verify system to confirm that prospective hires are legally permitted to live and work in the United States. It also requires those qualifying employers to certify their compliance with the bill on their first tax return each calendar year to the state’s tax service provider. The associated E-Verify documentation must be retained by Florida employers for at least three years.

Do All Florida Employers Have to Comply With the New E-Verify Requirements?

While Florida’s E-Verify mandate previously only applied to public employers, contractors, and subcontractors, this recent legislation has extended those requirements to private business owners. Specifically, it now also applies to private employers in Florida with 25 or more employees. Employee leasing companies in Florida fall under its purview as well, unless they have a written agreement with their client explicitly transferring these responsibilities to the other party. Employers who are federal contractors and/or vendors are already required to use E-Verify.

What is E-Verify?

Originally launched in 1996, E-Verify is an online resource that enables employers to confirm that their employees are eligible to work in the United States. As of March 2023, 66,385 Florida employers were actively enrolled with the service. The bill states that employers who discover that an individual is not, in fact, allowed to work in the United States after using E-Verify will not be punished for considering the candidate, as it establishes an “affirmative defense” for the employer.

How Do Florida Employers Use E-Verify to Validate an Employee’s Work Status?

Florida employers who are using E-Verify for the first time can follow the following steps to get started with the service:

1. First, visit E-Verify’s enrollment page (https://idp.uscis.gov/enroll/everify) to set up your account. Be sure to review their enrollment checklist to make sure that you have everything you need.

2. After your account has been created, E-Verify will guide you through a series of questions to determine what type of account access you should have. There are four types: employer, E-Verify employer agent, corporate administrator, and Web services. Each type comes with its own specific functions.

3. You’ll need to select your employer category, some of which have their own specific requirements. However, if none of the available categories applies to your business, then you can select the “None of these categories apply” option.

4. Next, you’ll enter your company’s information, including its name, physical location, mailing address, employer identification number (EIN), total number of employees, and any parent companies if applicable.

5. Once E-Verify has your company’s information, you’ll then need to enter the number of participating hiring sites in each state. E-Verify participation is counted on a site-by-site basis.

6. You’ll also need to register a program administrator for your company. You can choose as many program administrators as you want, but you need to have at least one.

7. After you’ve reviewed your information, you can then read and agree to E-Verify’s Memorandum of Understanding (MoU). After signing it electronically, you can download a copy for your records. It’s also highly recommended that Florida employers print off a hard copy of the MoU to share with relevant parties and to use as a back-up.

What if a Florida Employer Encounters Problems Using E-Verify?

E-Verify, like just about every other online service, has experienced some downtime and other issues in the past. Thankfully, Florida employers won’t need to worry about this getting them in trouble with the State. If the system is unavailable for more than three business days after a new hire starts working, then the employer must fill out Form I-9 to verify the employee’s eligibility instead. The Florida employer must also retain a screenshot or other proof of the system’s inaccessibility for each day that they can’t use E-Verify.

What Are the Penalties for Florida Employers Who Don’t Follow the New E-Verify Requirements?

Florida employers that don’t satisfy the bill’s new requirements could be fined $1,000 each day until they come into compliance. The company’s state business licenses could be suspended as well, so don’t make the mistake of thinking that these fines can just be written off as the cost of doing business. These are consequences that Florida business owners should avoid at all costs.

Update: Other Changes to Employment Verification Requirements Coming in 2023

In addition to the new rules laid out in S.B. 1718, there’s another change coming this summer to how Florida employers can verify if an employee is eligible for work in the United States. Starting August 1st, 2023, the Department of Homeland Security will no longer allow the remote verification of documents used to confirm an employee’s status. This will impact all Florida employers, not just those with the 25 or more employees that fall under the State’s new E-Verify requirements.

Florida employers will have until August 31st, 2023, to get their employment verification procedures into compliance with the DHS’s renewed physical inspection requirements. Moving forward, those using Form I-9 for these purposes will need to include confirmation that this physical inspection took place, along with the inspection’s location, date, and the name and signature of the inspector. This information will be entered into Section 2 of the Form. The responsibility for complying falls on the individual who either signs the I-9 Form or who handles the E-Verification process for the company.

Final Considerations

In 2022, only about 1.54% of employees that are processed through the E-Verify system were discovered to not be eligible to work in the United States. Many Florida employers and business owners are concerned about potentially heavy-handed enforcement as well as how the bill will impact their operations. For now, however, we can only look to other states that have implemented similar mandates (Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Massachusetts, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, and Utah) for guidance.

Contact FL Patel Law PLLC now for help navigating the complexities of employment law and other compliance matters. Florida employers can benefit in almost countless ways by taking advantage of our firm’s comprehensive corporate law services. For more, call us at (727) 279-5037 or schedule an appointment with our corporate attorney online.

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