Amendments to the “South Carolina Illegal Immigration and Reform Act” were signed into law by Governor Nikki Haley on June 27, 2011. The amended law requires all employers to enroll in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s E-Verify system beginning January 1, 2012 and to verify the legal status of all new employees through E-Verify within three business days. Failure to enroll in and use E-Verify to verify new hires will result in probation for the employer or suspension/revocation of the employer’s business licenses

In addition to completing and maintaining the federal employment eligibility verification form, more commonly known as the Form I-9, all South Carolina employers must within three business days after employing a new employee:

  1. Verify the employee’s work authorization through the E-Verify federal work authorization program administered by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
  2. Employers may no longer confirm a new employee’s employment authorization with a driver’s license or state identification card.

The South Carolina Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation (LLR) is charged with investigating complaints and conducting random audits of private employers to assure compliance. The agency must: (1) notify the United States Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) of suspected unauthorized aliens employed by a private employer; and

(2) notify state and local law enforcement agencies responsible for enforcing state immigration laws.

Over the past six months, the state has had a grace period in effect. During this time the Department of Labor, Licensing and Regulation has done 3,000 random audits of businesses to make sure they’re using e-Verify.  Only 158 businesses were found to be in violation of the law.

That grace period ended July 1, and employers must now use e-Verify to hire or face penalties, including possible shut down.

Failure to Comply

Prior to July 1, 2012, employers who were found to be out of compliance received warnings for a first violation. Under the new enforcement scheme, however, a first violation carries a one-year probation requiring businesses to submit quarterly reports to the state’s Department of Labor and a place on the agency’s website for six months. A second violation within three years requires the business to be shut down for between 10 days and 30 days by temporarily suspending its operating licenses. In addition, an agency determination that an employer knowingly hired an illegal immigrant and failed to use E-Verify raises the ante from an automatic, temporary suspension and $1,000 fine to a potential permanent shutdown through the revocation of all business licenses.