What Immigration-Related Questions Can You Ask a Job Candidate?

It is unlikely that you would want to spend your time in this competitive job market interviewing candidates for jobs with someone who can’t legally work in America.

Those who do not know much about immigration law may think there is a clear divide between those who can work in the U.S. and those who cannot. It is possible to work here with employment sponsorship or temporary unrestricted employment authorization. However, it can be difficult for candidates not to have the right kind of employment.

You may be able to tap into thousands of possible employees by knowing how to deal with non-U.S. citizens. Mishandling such situations could result in you being subject to government investigations or even fines.

You shouldn’t assume that a candidate for a job will look or speak the same way. It does not necessarily mean that the candidate has an accent. However, an American citizen who can speak English fluently without accent might not be allowed to work in the United States.

It is important to inquire about all candidates for employment if they are:

  • They may currently be eligible for work in America
  • Sponsorship is a requirement for them to be allowed to work in the U.S.

What Does the Law Speak?

The Immigration and Nationality Act’s protections against discrimination based on national origin or citizenship status only apply to:

Those candidates do not need employment sponsorship.

Candidates who claim they don’t require sponsorship should not be asked questions, even if you offer employment. Microsoft was forced to learn this hard lesson. The company recently agreed to pay a civil penalty of $17,352 to resolve claims that it violated the Immigration and Nationality Act by asking candidates who were lawful permanent residents, refugees, and asylees to go through an assessment of their need for visa sponsorship as part of the hiring process.

Are You able to make sure that your candidates are truthful?

If you want to protect yourself against fines for hiring employees without the proper employment authorization, you should complete a Form I-9 for each employee you hire, regardless of citizenship or immigration status. The form must be submitted no later than day one of the employment. It will ask the employee questions regarding their citizenship and work authorization in the U.S. This form requires that employers verify answers using passports or permanent resident cards.

But, it is possible that you won’t have to sign Form I-9 for the candidate before they accept your job. If you believe the candidate may be lying about their abilities to work, or need for sponsorship, then you might find yourself in a position where you have to offer them a job.

You Don’t Have To Solve This on Your Own – Get a Lawyer’s Help

Talking to a lawyer is a great way for you to learn more about your options and protect your rights. Find a local lawyer to help you.

Cyndy Lane

Cyndy is business journalist with a focus on entrepreneurship and small business. With over a decade of experience covering the startup and small business landscape, Cyndy has a reputation for being a knowledgeable, insightful and approachable journalist. She has a keen understanding of the challenges and opportunities facing small business owners and is able to explain them in a way that is relatable and actionable for her readers.