Georgia Governor Nathan Deal recently signed HB 87, the Illegal Immigration Reform and Enforcement Act of 2011. The “Peach State” is the latest to join the growing list of states that mandate E-Verify compliance for private businesses. The new bill expands on Georgia's current E-Verify law that only pertains to required state agencies, contractors and subcontractors.
Now, all Georgia employers with more than 10 employees who work at least 35 hours per week are required to enroll in and use E-Verify — to check the eligibility of all new hires that will be working in the United States. The requirements will be phased in gradually, based on the size of the employer:
- January 1, 2012 — Employers with 500 or more employees
- July 1, 2012 — Employers with 100-499 employees
- July 1, 2013 — Employers with 11-99 employees
In a press statement announcing the bill Governor Deal said, “What we've done is create a level playing field for all employers. The use of E-Verify means everyone plays by the same rules — and it protects employers by giving them a federal stamp of approval on their workforce.”
Here is some important information concerning the new law:
- Georgia employers must use E-Verify to make sure they're not hiring illegal immigrants.
- Entities that transport and hide illegal immigrants, or in any other way encourage them to enter the United States without legal documents is prohibited.
- Compliance with the E-Verify program will be tied to an entity's business license, tax certificate or “other document” required to operate a business in the state.
- Failure to comply could have consequences resulting in a suspended or denied business license, tax certificate, or other document required to operate a business Georgia.
- Random audits will be conducted on private and public employers to ensure compliance.
- Creates a new offense of “aggravated identity fraud” for any individual that uses fake identification to gain employment, with stiff penalties of 15 years in prison and a $250,000 fine.
Georgia businesses should prepare in advance, such as implementing processes and procedures, training, compliance guides and best practices to ensure mandatory participation prior to the enforcement deadline. As always, it's a good idea to check with your legal counsel to make sure you comply with employment and immigration issues.
Get the details of the new law here.
Read the Governor's official press release here.