The debate over immigration reform shifts every day. However, for employers hiring non-U.S. workers, the rules are currently steadfast.

There are several regulations employers must follow in order to comply with the government’s guidance, and these are especially important for restaurants and fast-food chains. According to one study, unauthorized immigrants represent 12 percent of food preparation workers and servers. 28 percent of undocumented workers are dishwashers and 19 percent are cooks.

Whether you are an upscale restaurant or a fast-food chain, here’s what you should know about hiring non-U.S. workers.

Hiring Non-U.S. Employment Applicants

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1996 (IRCA) prohibits employers from discriminating against non-U.S. citizens who have proper authorization to work.

It is the employer’s responsibility to verify each job applicant’s legal status and eligibility to work in the United States.

Employers must complete an Employment Eligibility Verification Form (Form I-9) for all job applicants, regardless of their citizenship. The Form I-9 records identification documentation such as a resident alien card (also known as a green card), U.S. passport, or driver’s license. Keep in mind that not all non-U.S. workers are issued green cards.

Employers must examine each piece of identification presented by an applicant for I-9 verification. If they appear genuine, the employer must accept them. Not accepting them could be construed as discrimination.

If the authorities determine that an employee is not authorized to work in the U.S., but the employer has properly completed the Form I-9, the employer is not liable for a verification violation.

However, since it is illegal to employ someone who is not authorized to work in the U.S., the employer would have to terminate the employment immediately.

Technology has improved the Form I-9 verification process for employers. In fact, half a million companies now participate in E-Verify, the online system for employers to confirm their applicants’ employment eligibility.

Still, employers remain responsible for tracking the expiration date of each document submitted by every applicant they hire.

How Can Employers Hire Non-U.S. Citizens?

There are some provisions of the law that allow employers to hire applicants who are not U.S. citizens.

For example, employers who want to hire a person who lives outside of the U.S. must complete a Labor Certification Request (ETA 9089) with the Department of Labor.

Once approved, the employer must file a Petition for a Nonimmigrant Worker (Form I-129) or a Petition for Alien Worker (Form I-140), depending on the applicant’s visa category. Visa categories are described here.

Partnering with a qualified background screening service is a cost-effective way for food service businesses to manage the employment verification process.

A background screening provider can also help your restaurant or quick-service food chain implement a comprehensive hiring process that includes criminal record searches.

A comprehensive hiring process is an essential part of maintaining a safe and reliable workforce dedicated to serving your customers.

To learn more about creating a screening service that works for your company, consider InfoMart’s Food Service Screening.

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