South Carolina Mandates Employers Use E-Verify

  • July 1, 2011

South Carolina has joined the growing number of states requiring employers to use the federal E-Verify program exclusively to confirm new workers’ employment authorization.  Governor Nikki Haley signed into law amendments to the South Carolina Illegal Immigration Reform Act (“Act” or “SCIIRA”) and other state laws addressing immigration on June 27, 2011.


The South Carolina Illegal Immigration Reform Act prohibits the employment of persons who are not authorized to work in the U.S.  Beginning January 1, 2012, South Carolina employers may no longer confirm new workers’ employment authorization with a driver’s license or state identification card.  Rather, all South Carolina employers must enroll in the federal E-Verify program, a free Internet-based system.  E-Verify compares information supplied in the Employment Eligibility Verification Form I-9 with data from federal agencies, including the Social Security Administration and Department of Homeland Security.

Employer Penalties

The Act imputes an employment license on all South Carolina employers.  An employer who knowingly or intentionally employs an unauthorized alien violates the employment license.  South Carolina will no longer impose civil penalties.  Penalties for failure to comply with the Act include a probationary period, during which an employer must submit quarterly reports demonstrating compliance with South Carolina law.  Subsequent violations result in the suspension or revocation of an employment license.  During suspension, an employer may not engage in a business opened to the public, employ an employee, or otherwise operate. 

Employers who are found to have violated the Act or suspected of employing unauthorized aliens must be reported to federal, state, and local law enforcement.  In addition, the South Carolina Department of Labor Licensing and Regulation must publish a list of all employers found in violation of SCIIRA.

Other Provisions to Curtail Illegal Immigration

The new law empowers police to check the immigration status of an individual they have detained for another reason.  Those found to be in the country illegally are to be turned over to federal immigration officials.  The law also establishes a new immigration enforcement unit in the Department of Public Safety. The most recent budget sent to Governor Nikki Haley includes $1.3 million for the new unit. 

Next Steps for Employers

The new South Carolina law is consistent with the current trend among the states and the federal government to enforce immigration by cracking down on employers.  South Carolina employers who do not already participate in E-Verify should enroll in E-verify and train their human resources personnel on proper verification of employment authorization.  In addition, employers should take the opportunity to review and audit their records internally.  Employer who receive a notice of an audit or investigation should contact counsel immediately to avoid being shut down. 

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Jackson Lewis attorneys assist employers with immigration audits and investigations and navigate companion publicity, discrimination, and federal immigration perils.  In addition to assisting with cost-effective preventive strategies, attorneys in Jackson Lewis’ Global Immigration practice group also advise on I-9 audit, hiring practices, and federal and state immigration law compliance issues across the country. 

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