James, a small business owner, specializes in guitar repairs and general musical instrument sales, as well as offering guitar lessons. James met Javier, an immigrant from Mexico, when Javier became a regular in the guitar shop. While the two men got to know each other more, James learned that Javier makes his own acoustic guitars and is a self-taught musician. Javier came to the United States, with his family, in hopes of having a better quality of life full of employment and educational opportunities. In the 6 months that Javier has been in the U.S., the only jobs he has been able to get were construction jobs. Javier wants to quit because the working conditions are unfair and unsafe, but he cannot afford to quit. James would like to hire Javier to assist with guitar repairs and to give lessons, but James is not sure if he is able to hire Javier, due to the Federal Immigration Law.
Hiring and Immigration Law
The federal immigration law requires that businesses, big and small, only hire individuals who are legally allowed to work in the United States. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services division of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, legal U.S. employees include U.S. Citizens, permanent residents (who have “green cards” ) and individuals who are authorized to work as a result of their nonimmigrant status or a person who has been granted permission to work (who have visas).
Small business owners, like James, may learn a plethora of valuable information when looking at the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA), which governs immigration and citizenship in the U.S. The INA is especially important to smaller business owners because it addresses such issues as employment eligibility, employment verification and non-discrimination.
According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, upon hiring a new employee, you must verify that the employee is eligible to work in the United States. A small business owner, within three days of hiring the employee, must complete an Employment Eligibility Verification Form or an I-9 form. Business owners may only request documentation as specified on the I-9. Asking for another other forms of documentation can subject a business owner to discrimination lawsuits.
Once the form has been filled out, the business owner is required to keep the I-9 on file for three years after the date of hire or one year after the date the employment ends, rather than filing it with the federal government. It is important that the form is filled out properly and filed away as the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agency conducts workplace audits to ensure that employers are obtaining I-9 forms and that the information matches government records.
As a business owner, it is important to protect your business as well as your employees. In addition, you can become a certified business through the Department of Labor so that you are able to hire temporary or permanent foreign workers.
Some business owners take advantage of illegal immigrants (and their need for employment), by offering lower wages, poor working conditions, and unsafe practices; just so they can save some money. However, many business owners may see specific job potential in immigrant applicants rather than U.S. applicants and employees. As much as business owners want to be seen as an equal opportunity employer, they must first make sure that they are employing legally. Keep your business and your employees safe and happy; hire legally and run a fair and honest business.