I want to hire an individual who is working here on F-1 status pursuant to his first Optional Practical Training (OPT) which is available for a 12-month period. I understand that if this individual has a STEM degree (Science, Technology, Engineering or Mathematics discipline) and works for employers who participate in the E-Verify program, he/she can extend their OPT for 17 months beyond the normal one year validity period, thereby eliminating the need (or at least delaying the need) for an employer to incur the legal and filing fees for the H-1B program, as well as having to comply with the public access requirements.
As an employer, should I participate in the E-Verify program?

A E-Verify is an electronic method of verifying employment with Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It supplements the I-9 process of employment verification. Currently, unless the employer engages in federal government contracts or conducts business in certain states which have made E-Verify mandatory, the E-Verify program is voluntary. Those employers who are not required to enroll, but are considering signing up for E-Verify, should carefully consider the pros and cons. The essential theme of the E-verify program is the requirement that the employer enter into a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) with DHS, which, in turn, requires, among other things, that the employer:

(a) posts certain notices/posters (i.e. E-Verify Poster and the Office of the Special Counsel anti-discrimination poster) in locations that are accessible to prospective applicants and new hires. This applies to electronic media when practical, as well as physical locations;

(b)  agrees to allow DHS and the Social Security Administration (SSA), or their authorized agents or designees, to make periodic visits to the employer for the purpose of reviewing E-Verify-related records (i.e. Forms I-9 and SSA and DHS confirmation records); and

(c)  agrees to allow DHS and SSA, or their authorized agents or designees, to interview the employer, employees handling the program (i.e. the Company’s Designated Agent), and employees hired during participation in E-Verify concerning their experience with the program.

Given the MOU requirement, coupled with the zero tolerance aspect of the program (which is not yet 100% accurate), it is important that an employer carefully consider whether “signing up” with DHS and SSA is a fair exchange for avoiding (temporarily) the expense and compliance aspects of the H-1B visa program.

Immigration and business attorney Indu Liladhar-Hathi has an office in San Jose. (408) 453-5335.