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When can I ask a job applicant citizenship status?

October 6, 2016

Hi Jennifer,
At what stage during the interview/hiring process can an employer inquire into a prospective employee’s citizenship status?

Thanks in advance, Dr. G


You are not allowed to discriminate against a job applicant for their citizenship or immigration status, as per the Immigration Reform and Control Act of 12986 (IRCA). However, you are required to check the identity and employment eligibility of all employees hired by completing the Employment Eligibility Verification (I-9).  So, do not ask whether or not a job applicant is a United States citizen before making an offer of employment. To avoid a potential claim of unlawful discrimination, employment eligibility verification should be conducted after an offer to hire has been made.
To make legal status a job requirement, inform applicants prior to hiring, potentially on your job application or hiring form - 
"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."
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