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Hiring Undocumented Workers
It’s not worth the risk: hiring undocumented workers will bring legal embarrassment and humiliation to your organization. Regardless of how desperate you are for talent, keep reading to learn more about the consequences of hiring undocumented immigrants, as well as relevant laws.

What Does It Mean to Hire Undocumented Workers?

To hire undocumented workers means hiring someone who entered the country without having the required work authorization documentation. Federal law prohibits this practice, and employers will face civil or criminal consequences regardless of if they were aware that an employee is an undocumented immigrant.

What Are the Consequences of Hiring Undocumented Immigrants?

There are several consequences that an employer may face depending on the circumstances. These include:
  • Criminal/civil fines. The immediate consequence of hiring an undocumented immigrant can be a fine up to $3,000.
  • Loss or suspension of business license. You may be desperate to hire talent, but it is not worth the risk if you have to stop all operations. The Immigration Reform and Control Act holds the employer responsible to ensure that every new hire is legally authorized to work in the United States. When an employer fails to follow this, the federal court may charge the employer with the loss or suspension of a business license.
  • Damaged reputation. If your organization is caught employing undocumented workers, the story will get told, whether by word of mouth, social media, or a local news outlet. The impact on your reputation will vary, but it will definitely impact the trust the community has in you.
  • Replacing management. To rebuild trust with the community and prevent future fines or legal consequences, replacing the leadership involved with the hires may be required. This will result in additional recruiting and operating costs.

Who Is an Undocumented Immigrant?

The Department of Homeland Security states that “The unauthorized resident immigrant population is defined as all foreign-born non-citizens who are not legal residents. Most unauthorized residents either entered the United States without inspection or were admitted temporarily and stayed past the date they were required to leave. (Department of Homeland Security)

Important Laws Regarding Hiring Undocumented Workers

The following laws will help you navigate recruiting and set up a talent acquisition process that follows federal and state law.

Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) describes this law: “IRCA prohibits employers from hiring and employing an individual in the U.S. knowing that the individual is not authorized for such employment. Employers are prohibited from continuing to employ an individual if they know he or she is unauthorized for employment. This law also prohibits employers from hiring any individual, including a U.S. citizen, for employment in the U.S. without verifying his or her identity and employment authorization on Form I-9.” “Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, requirements come out of the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA).” Also check out the following HR Encyclopedia Articles for more details on laws and regulations.

How to Ensure Your Company Does Not Hire Undocumented Workers

To avoid the costly embarrassment of hiring undocumented workers, please consider the following tips.

Interview Questions

If you have not already, consider adding the following question to your online application: Are you legally authorized to work in the United States?

Consistent Completion of the I-9 Form

It’s important to complete the I-9 form for each new employee when new hires join the company, re-verify them when work authorization expires and complete routine audits to avoid any surprises.

Participate in E-Verify

E-Verify runs concurrently with the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). It checks the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security to protect U.S. jobs for those authorized to work legally in the United States. To enroll in E-Verify, click here

Exceptions to the Rule

As circumstances dictate, conflict in other countries requires the United States to expedite the immigration process for those looking to escape unrest for their own safety. These individuals are considered refugees and not undocumented immigrants. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) can grant refugees with certain classifications employment authorization temporarily until they receive their employment authorization document (EAD). For details on those classifications > Certain Afghan and Ukrainian Parolees Are Employment Authorized Incident to Parole
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Ryan Archibald

Ryan Archibald

Ryan is an HR Director with four years of experience and three masters degrees. One accomplishment he is proud of is the design and launch of a learning and development program for 800+ employees.
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Frequently asked questions
Other Related Terms
EEO Statement
FLSA Non-Exempt
Hiring Laws
Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA)
Negligent Hiring
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