House Judiciary Committee Passes Mandatory E-Verify Bill
March 4, 2015
Written by Laura J. Mazel and Katy Lopez
On March 3, the House Judiciary Committee passed HR 1147, Republican Lamar Smith’s “Legal Workforce Act.” In its current form, the bill would mandate E-Verify enrollment for all employers over a six-month to 2.5-year period after the date the bill would become law, depending on the number of an employer’s workforce. There has long been a push in Congress to require all companies to participate in E-Verify. For example, the Senate’s 2013 comprehensive immigration reform legislation included a phase-in of E-Verify over a five-year period.
It is too soon to forecast the bill’s future. It is worth noting, however, the government’s current “carrot” to encourage e-Verify participation. U.S. STEM degree holders who work for employers enrolled in E-Verify may obtain an additional 17 months of work authorization, for a total of 29 months STEM-related F-1 work authorization after graduation. Some companies grappling with annual Fiscal Year H-1B quotas and wishing to continue to employ their foreign national STEM graduates remain on the fence about whether to enroll in E-Verify to gain additional student work authorization. They should evaluate anew whether to enroll in E-verify this spring, in May, after results of H-1B lottery season shakeout. Enrollment in E-Verify to enable attainment of an additional 17 months of STEM-related F-1 work authorization can be a speedy process, involving just a few weeks.
In the past, employers have been understandably wary of voluntarily enrolling in E-Verify, but the system has improved since it was first established. The government’s E-Verify website is actually helpful and provides tutorials. With mandatory E-Verify participation on the distant horizon, it is not clear how much longer the government will provide the “carrot” of increased STEM work authorization.