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Pre-Employment Inquiries and Citizenship

Employers should not ask whether or not a job applicant is a United States citizen before making an offer of employment. The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 12986 (IRCA) makes it illegal for employers to discriminate with respect to hiring, firing, or recruitment or referral for a fee, based on an individual's citizenship or immigration status. For example, the law prohibits employers from hiring only U.S. citizens or lawful permanent residents unless required to do so by law, regulation or government contract; it also prohibits employers from preferring to hire temporary visa holders or undocumented workers over qualified U.S. citizens or other protected individuals, such as refugees or individuals granted asylum.

IRCA requires employers to verify the identity and employment eligibility of all employees hired after November 6, 1986, by completing the Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9) Form, and reviewing documents showing the employee's identity and employment authorization. The law prohibits employers from rejecting valid documents or insisting on additional documents beyond what is legally required for employment eligibility verification (or the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) Form I-9), based on an employee's citizenship status or national origin. For example, e.g., an employer cannot require only individuals the employer perceives as "foreign" to verify their employment eligibility or produce specific documents, such as Permanent Resident ("green") cards or Employment Authorization Documents. It is the employee's choice which of the permitted documents to show for employment eligibility verification. As long as the document appears reasonably genuine on its face, and relates to the employee, it should be accepted.

Because of potential claims of illegal discrimination, employment eligibility verification should be conducted after an offer to hire has been made. Applicants may be informed of these requirements in the pre-employment setting by adding the following statement on the employment application:

"In compliance with federal law, all persons hired will be required to verify identity and eligibility to work in the United States and to complete the required employment eligibility verification document form upon hire."

The Immigration Reform and Control Act of 1986 (IRCA) also prohibits discrimination on the basis of national origin by smaller employers (with 4 to 14 employees). IRCA prohibits retaliation against individuals for asserting their rights under the Act, or for filing a charge or assisting in an investigation or proceeding under IRCA. Discrimination charges under IRCA are processed by the Department of Justice, Office of Special Counsel (OSC) for Immigration- Related Unfair Employment Practices. For more information, contact the OSC at:

1-800-255-7688 (voice for employees/applicants),
1-800-237-2515 (TTY for employees/applicants),
1-800-255-8155 (voice for employers), or
1-800-362-2735 (TTY for employers), or
http://www.usdoj.gov/crt/osc.