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Shutdown denies employers work eligibility tool

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ST. CLOUD, Minn. (AP) — The federal government shutdown has cut off employers from a system that lets them quickly check an employee's eligibility to work in the U.S.

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Minnesota businesses say that's causing hiring headaches. Minneapolis attorney Scott Wright, an expert in business immigration law, told the St. Cloud Times that it's also likely to add to the administrative costs of hiring.

The E-Verify system compares information from an employee's I-9 form to data from federal agencies such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. Its absence is one of numerous examples of how the federal shutdown, which was finishing its second full week Monday, is putting stress on private business.

The unavailability of E-Verify "is causing delays, inconvenience and increased costs to employers," said Wright, an attorney with the firm of Faegre Baker Daniels. "It is just adding to the administrative cost of hiring."

Kelly Severson of Atlas Staffing, which does job placement in St. Cloud and the Twin Cities, said her firm is continuing to place employees without running the checks. She said they'll run them when the system is available again, but she's also worried about what might happen if an employee who's already been placed is found ineligible to work.

Under normal circumstances, businesses have three days from when an employee starts work to vet them with E-Verify. Nicci Steinhofer, an assistant manager at the St. Cloud office of Atlas, predicted a huge backlog when the system is finally available again. Atlas uses the system "on a daily basis," she said.

U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, which helps administer E-Verify, has counseled employers to suspend the three-day rule and to extend the period during which employees can appeal tentative non-confirmations of eligibility.

St. Cloud poultry company GNP has continued to hire employees in the absence of E-Verify. But spokeswoman Lexann Reischl told the Times that company officials are seeking more direction from federal officials about how to deal with the situation.

"We're hoping to hear something," Reischl said.

Copyright 2013 The Associated Press.

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