Skip to content Skip to footer
Table of contents

This Illinois Human Resources Manual is offered to you for free. Find state specific laws and regulations below.

Immigration — Illinois

Employment verification

Immigration Reform and Control Act

U.S. employers are required to ensure that all employees, including foreign nationals and U.S. workers, are eligible to work in the United States. under the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). To accomplish this, all employees hired after November 6, 1986, must complete a Form I-9 and produce documents verifying their identity and work authorization. Violations of the IRCA are punishable by civil fines and criminal sanctions. The act makes it unlawful for employers to:

  • knowingly hire or continue the employment of any person, hired after November 6, 1986, who lacks authorization to work in the United States
  • hire any person without verifying that individual’s identity and employment eligibility
  • discriminate in hiring and firing decisions on the basis of citizenship status (except under very narrow restrictions)
  • discriminate on the basis of national origin
  • knowingly counterfeit or alter a document for the purpose of satisfying any immigration-related requirement
  • knowingly use or accept any false document for the purpose of satisfying any immigration-related requirement.

Employment eligibility verification is accomplished by completion of Form I-9, a form designated specifically for this purpose. The Form I-9 was last revised in 2019, while the current form has an expiration date of 10/31/2022, no new form has yet been released as of the printing of this manual. Employers should continue to use the form with a revision date of 10/21/2019 until further notice. A copy of this form is available here:

When the I-9 form must be completed

The employer is responsible for ensuring that the I-9 forms are completed in a timely manner, are completed properly and that the forms are retained in accordance with IRCA requirements. Section 1 of I-9 form must be completed by the employee no later than the date that employment starts. Section 2 must be completed by the employer representative no later than the third business day after the start date.

An I-9 form is required for each employee hired after November 6, 1986. Employees hired before that date are “grandfathered” and an I-9 form is not needed for these persons so long as the individual’s employment is “continuing” in nature. This means that authorized leaves of absence, brief interruptions in employment, transfers to other facilities, resumption of seasonal employment and similar situations do not generally trigger the verification requirement. True independent contractors are not subject to the I-9 form verification requirement. To reduce the risk of possible liability, however, an employer will often want to ensure that even contract employees are lawfully working in this country.

The employee completes basic identifying information and attests to his or her immigration status in Section 1 before starting work. The employer must then examine the new hire’s document(s) and certify in Section 2 within three business days after the employee’s start date that the document(s) appear to:

  • be genuine
  • relate to the individual in question
  • authorize the employee to work in the United States.

Any document that contains an expiration date must be current and unexpired at the time that the I-9 form is completed.

Documents that may be provided

The law requires that employees be allowed to select the documents they wish to present to verify identity and employment authorization. The documents presented must be on the List of Acceptable Documents and must be the originals. While an employer may photocopy documents presented by employees, it is not required to do so. It is important to ensure that the current version of the I-9 form is being used, along with the appropriate form for your location (the Spanish language version of the form is only for use in Puerto Rico and the CNMI version of the form is only for use in the Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands).

Documents with expiration dates

When an employee’s work authorization has an expiration date, the employer is required to “reverify” his or her employment authorization no later than the date that the prior work authorization expires. If the employee cannot provide proof of his or her authorization to work beyond that date, the employer may not continue to employ that person. In order to reverify an employee’s work authorization, a new I-9 form may be completed or Section 3 of the current version of the I-9 form may be used. List B identity documents never need to be reverified, even if they have an expiration date. Likewise, Permanent Resident Cards and U.S. Passports and U.S. Passport Cards should not be reverified when they expire.

Document abuse

The IRCA prohibits employers from engaging in the following prohibited practices that are commonly known as document abuse:

  • requiring an employee to present more or different documents than are minimally required for the employment verification process
  • refusing to honor documents presented by an employee that reasonably appear to be genuine and that relate to the person
  • specifying which documents an employee must present to prove identity and/or employment eligibility.

I-9 form recordkeeping

While an individual remains employed, employers must maintain an I-9 form in their files (unless he or she was hired before November 7, 1986). Once an employee is terminated, the employer must retain that employee’s I-9 form in the company’s files for, both:

  • three years from the date the employee originally started work
  • one year after the employment was terminated.

Once the later date of those two dates is reached, the I-9 form for the terminated employee may be purged.

Penalties for noncompliance

Officials of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) and others have authority to conduct inspections of an employer’s I-9 forms. Generally, an I-9 form inspection is initiated when ICE issues a Notice of Inspection (with or without a subpoena). In almost all cases, employers are entitled to three-days’ notice prior to the inspection. If it is determined that there are substantive or technical errors on the I-9 forms that cannot be corrected (i.e., late completion errors), a fine of $237 to $2,360 per I-9 form may be assessed.

If it is determined that an employer knowingly hired or continued to employ individuals who were not authorized to work in the United States or discriminated on the basis of citizenship status or national origin, employers may be ordered to pay fines ranging from $590 to $4,722 per unauthorized worker for a first offense, from $4,722 to $11,803 per unauthorized worker for a second offense and from $7,082 to $23,607 per unauthorized worker for subsequent offenses. Criminal penalties, including $3,000 per employee and/or six months in prison, may be imposed against an employer convicted of engaging in a “pattern or practice” of knowingly hiring unauthorized workers in violation of the law.


E-Verify is a web-based system that allows employers to check the work authorization for newly hired, rehired and, in some cases, existing employees. While use of E-Verify is voluntary for many employers, several states have passed laws requiring certain employers to use E-Verify–it is not required in Illinois. Additionally, some employers may be required by federal law to use E-Verify under a federal contract.

In Illinois, the Right to Privacy in the Workplace Act stipulates that prior to choosing to voluntarily enroll in the E-Verify Program, employers are urged to consult the Illinois Department of Labor’s (IDOL) website for current information regarding the accuracy of the program. Additionally, employers are encouraged to review and understand their legal responsibilities relating to the use of the E-Verify Program. Furthermore, the act prohibits the misuse of the Program and places certain training and recordkeeping requirements on the employer.

Illinois employers using the E-Verify program must attest on a form prescribed by the IDOL that the:

  • employer and all employees using the E-Verify program have received the Basic Pilot or E-Verify Program training materials and completed the online computer-based training (CBT) provided by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS)
  • employer has posted in a place that is clearly visible the required notice from DHS indicating that the company is enrolled in the E-Verify Program
  • employer maintains the original signed attestation form, as well as all CBT certificates of completion and makes them available for copying and inspection at the request of the IDOL and
  • employer has posted in a place that is clearly visible the required anti-discrimination notice issued by the Office of Special Counsel for Immigrant-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC).

Once an employer has enrolled in the E-Verify program, which includes signing a Memorandum of Understanding to share data with DHS and the Social Security Administration (SSA), the employer must start verifying all newly hired or rehired employees through the system. E-Verify does not relieve an employer of the obligation to complete a Form I-9 for each newly hired employee; rather the system provides additional verification of the employee’s authorization to work in the United States.

Temporary employment visas available to foreign nationals

Different types of non-immigrant (temporary) visas are issued for different purposes – travel, business, study, employment, etc. Specific documentation and evidence are necessary to meet the requirements of each different visa category.

Not all temporary visas authorize employment. It is therefore possible for a foreign national to be in the United States lawfully, but not be allowed to work. In addition, nearly all employment-related non-immigrant visas authorize employment only in a specific position and for a specific employer. Any other employment is prohibited. It is usually possible for the foreign national to change visa categories and/or employment upon USCIS approval of a visa petition filed by the foreign national or the employer. Generally, dependents (spouses and children under the age of 21) are authorized to accompany the principal foreign national to the United States. Certain non-immigrant visa categories allow dependent spouses to apply for employment authorization.

B-1 business visitor

This visa category is commonly used by a foreign employer to send a foreign national to the United States for temporary, short-term business visits. The B-1 visa does not authorize employment by a U.S. employer.

This category is frequently used by salespeople to call upon U.S. customers, by managers or executives attending conventions or business meetings in the United States, by technical personnel servicing equipment or goods sold to U.S. entities, etc.

The key requirement is that the foreign national cannot receive payment from a U.S. employer for services rendered during a B-1 visit. The B-1 visa authorizes the foreign national to stay for the duration of the temporary assignment but no more than six months; an extension of stay beyond six months is possible but difficult to obtain.

E-1 treaty trader and E-2 treaty investor

The E-visa category allows foreign nationals to enter the United States to manage a foreign entity’s “substantial” trade or investment in the United States. This visa category is frequently used by multi-national companies to transfer managers, executives and key personnel to U.S. operations. E-visas require the existence of a friendship, navigation and commerce or bilateral investment treaty between the United States and the foreign entity’s country. The foreign national must be a citizen of the treaty country and the foreign entity must be owned (or majority owned) by citizens of the treaty country. The E-visa permits an initial period of authorized stay of two years, but E-status may be renewed indefinitely so long as the requisite treaty relationship and qualifying trade/investment continue.

E-3 Australian citizen professional

The E-3 category allows Australian nationals to work in the United States in specialty occupations. Specialty occupations are those which are professional in nature and require at least a baccalaureate degree in a specific, relevant field. The foreign national must possess the relevant baccalaureate degree or the equivalent in education and working experience. E-3 visas are approved for a period of two years and are renewable indefinitely. A statutory quota system limits the number of new E-3 visas granted during each fiscal year.

H-1B specialty worker

The H-1B visa category allows a foreign national to fill a specialty “professional” position, i.e., one that requires at least a baccalaureate degree in a specific, relevant field. The foreign national must possess the relevant baccalaureate degree or the equivalent in education and working experience. The H-1B visa allows for an initial period of three years of authorized employment and a maximum period of six consecutive years of authorized employment (although the six-year period may be extended under certain circumstances). The employer is required to pay for return transportation for the foreign national to return his or her native country in the event that employment terminates during the validity period of the visa approval.

The employer must compile documentation and obtain approval of a Labor Condition Application (LCA) from the U.S. Department of Labor before submitting an H-1B petition to the USCIS. The LCA attestation requirements include, among other things, agreeing to pay the prevailing wage or the actual wage, whichever is higher and agreeing to provide the foreign national the same benefits as those offered to U.S. workers.

H-1B visa holders may take advantage of a “portability” provision that allows them to begin working for a new employer once the new employer’s H-1 petition is filed (rather than waiting several months for the petition to be approved). Of course, the new employer must comply with the attestation requirements and file a bona fide petition.

A statutory quota system limits the number of new H-1B visas granted during each fiscal year. Institutions of higher education, nonprofit research organizations and organizations affiliated with institutions of higher education generally are exempt from the annual quota. Extensions of H-1B status are also generally exempt.

H-1B1 Chile and Singapore professionals

The H-1B1 category allows citizens of Chile and Singapore to work in the United States in specialty occupations requiring theoretical and practical application of a body of specialized knowledge and the attainment of a bachelor’s degree or the equivalent in the specific specialty. Application of the H-1B1 visa may be made directly at the U.S. Consulate without prior approval from the USCIS. Admission is in one-year increments; indefinite extensions in one-year increments may be granted. An annual quota system limits the number of Chile H-1B1 visas to 1,400. Singapore H-1B1 visas are annually limited to 5,400.

H-2 temporary worker

There are two kinds of H-2 visas:

  1. H-2A visas for temporary agricultural workers
  2. H-2B visas for other temporary workers

In both cases, the employer must demonstrate that the foreign national will only be needed for a temporary or seasonal period. In other words, the job itself must be temporary in nature.

In addition, the employer must undertake an extensive documentation process to obtain a labor certification from the DOL. This process includes positive recruitment efforts intended to prove that U.S. workers are not available for the job in question. Generally, H-2 status is only valid for the period of the employer’s temporary need. The underlying the DOL certification will be valid for no more than one year and must be renewed if the temporary employment is to continue. H-2B visas are subject to a fiscal year quota, limiting the number of visas issued each year.

H-3 trainee

The H-3 category is for foreign nationals coming to the United States to receive training unavailable in their native country. The employer providing the training must document the existence and content of a formal training program, which may include some on-the-job training. The foreign national, however, cannot displace a U.S. worker and cannot work for the U.S. employer once the training program concludes.

J-1 exchange visitor

This visa category is very broad. A few examples of vocations that use the J-1 Exchange Visitor are:

  • students
  • visiting researchers
  • lecturers
  • business trainees
  • interns
  • summer camp counselors
  • au pairs.

Business trainees may qualify for up to 18 months of on-the-job training or employment, except for trainees in the agricultural, hotel and tourism fields, who are generally limited to 12 months. The foreign national must be sponsored by an officially designated exchange visitor program sponsor, but employers can often coordinate sponsorship with an academic institution or “umbrella” program.

The J-1 visa can subject the foreign national to a two-year home country residence requirement in any of the following situations:

  • the visit is funded by the native country or a U.S. government agency
  • the foreign national’s skills are in short supply in the native country
  • the J-1 foreign national is coming to the United States to receive graduate medical training.

A foreign national subject to the two-year residence rule must spend two full years in the native country or obtain a waiver of that requirement before being eligible for H-1, L-1 or permanent residence status.

L-1 intra-company transferee

The L-1 visa category permits transfer of managers, executives and persons with specialized skill/knowledge from a foreign entity to a related affiliated U.S. employer. The foreign national must have been employed by the foreign entity in the requisite capacity for at least one full year during the three years preceding the transfer and must be coming to work in a qualifying position with the U.S. employer. The L-1 visa authorizes up to seven years of employment for executives and managers and up to five years of employment for specialized knowledge personnel. L-1 managers and executives are eligible for a streamlined permanent residence process.

Employers who make frequent use of the L-1 category may qualify for “blanket” L-1 authorization. In effect, this amounts to pre-qualification for L-1 status and reduces the procedural burden associated with key transfers.

O-1 extraordinary alien

The O-1 visa category is intended for foreign nationals of extraordinary ability in the arts, sciences, education, business or athletics. The prospective employer must demonstrate a specific, limited need for a foreign national of extraordinary ability and the foreign national must be able to document national or international renown in the relevant field of endeavor. The employer must also obtain a consultation from a peer group or labor organization in the field which confirms the foreign national’s reputation and the employer’s need for the foreign national’s services. The return transportation requirement applicable to H-1 professionals also applies to O-1 foreign nationals. O-1 status is generally valid for three years and may be extended.

P performing artist

The P visa category is designed to permit entry of foreign-national performers in the arts or athletics or foreign nationals who are internationally known artists, entertainers or athletes coming to the United States for a specific event or tour. P-2 visas are available for foreign national performers participating in a reciprocal cultural exchange program. P-3 visas are used by coaches and trainers accompanying P artists or athletes. The foreign national must demonstrate an international reputation. Like the O-1 visa, the P visa categories require a consultation from a peer group or labor organization to confirm the foreign national’s reputation and the return transportation requirement applies if the employment ends prematurely.

Q cultural exchange visitor

The Q-visa permits entry of foreign nationals coming to an approved international cultural exchange program. This category is popularly referred to as the Disney visa, since it is used to permit employment of foreign nationals in culturally unique exhibits or attractions. Q-foreign nationals are permitted up to 15 months of employment in the cultural exchange program.

TN NAFTA treaty professional

NAFTA incorporated the provisions of the United States -Canada Free Trade Agreement and made similar provisions applicable to Mexicans seeking employment in the United States. Canadian and Mexican citizens who are employed in defined occupations may obtain TN visas that will authorize U.S. employment in three-year increments. Canadian TN applicants may apply at the border simply by presenting proof of citizenship, proof of an academic degree in the qualifying profession and an offer of employment from the U.S. employer in one of the defined occupations. Mexicans seeking TN status must present the same documents at a U.S. Consulate to obtain a TN visa stamp and then may apply for entry at the U.S. port of entry.

F-1 and M-1 students

Foreign students pursuing an education in the United States generally utilize the F-1 (academic) or M-1 (vocational) student visa category. Upon completion of a recognized degree program, a foreign student may qualify for a period of on-the-job optional practical training (OPT).

Academic students completing a baccalaureate degree program are often eligible for up to 12 months of practical training. The student must apply to USCIS for permission to engage in practical training, which must be in a field related to the student’s degree program.

Once the foreign national begins practical training, the employer can consider sponsoring the foreign national for H-1B status. OPT may be extended from 12 months to 36 months for F-1 visa students with a degree in science, technology, engineering or mathematics who are employed by businesses enrolled in the E-Verify program.

Students in degree programs may sometimes work pursuant to “curricular practical training” or a work-study program. Curricular practical training is approved by the school’s foreign student advisor and does not require prior government approval. Students who use up 12 or more months of curricular practical training become ineligible for post-graduate practical training.

Obtaining permanent residence

There are two major avenues to permanent residence:

  1. family-based sponsorship
  2. employment-based sponsorship.

Each type of sponsorship has several categories and different procedures.

Spouses of U.S. citizens may be sponsored immediately for permanent residence and are not subject to category or per-country quotas. If the sponsor’s petition is filed within two years after the marriage, the immigrant will be granted a conditional permanent residence and the couple must file a joint petition to remove conditions on residence two years after the immigrant is granted conditional permanent residence. This requirement is intended to deter marriage fraud.

Almost all other family-based petitions are subject to category and per-country quotas and because of the high level of demand, it may take many years before a visa is available. There are family-based categories for unmarried sons and daughters of U.S. citizens, spouses and children of permanent residents, married sons and daughters of U.S. citizens and brothers and sisters of U.S. citizens.

Employment-based permanent residence also has several categories, each with different requirements. For some categories, the employer must obtain “labor certification.” This is a certification from the DOL which states that there are no U.S. workers qualified and available to fill the position for which the immigrant is sponsored.

If a foreign national is sponsored for employment-based permanent residence, all of the following conditions must be met:

  • The sponsoring employer must intend to employ the foreign national.
  • The position to be filled by the foreign national must be permanent, full-time employment.
  • The employer must have the financial resources to pay the foreign national’s salary.
  • The foreign national must meet the minimum requirements for the position.

In addition, several categories of employment-based permanent residence require certification by the DOL that no qualified U.S. workers are available to fill the position.

There are five major employment-based visa categories for immigrants:

  1. priority workers
  2. professionals with advanced degrees and aliens of "exceptional ability"
  3. other professionals and skilled workers
  4. special immigrants
  5. investors and entrepreneurs. 

Priority workers

There are three groups of foreign nationals who may qualify for Priority Worker status. Labor certification is not required for this category of permanent residence:

  1. Aliens of extraordinary ability in arts, sciences, education, business or athletics - Generally, this sub-category is reserved for individuals of extraordinary talent and achievements such as Nobel laureates or recipients of internationally recognized prizes and awards. In short, the foreign national must have risen to the very top of his or her profession. Although this is an employment-based permanent residence category, foreign nationals meeting this high standard need not have a firm offer of employment in the United States but may qualify solely on the basis of a promise to seek employment commensurate with their standing in the profession or field.
  2. Outstanding professors and researchers - This sub-category is intended to permit academic and research institutions to hire the most qualified people regardless of citizenship status. The foreign national must have at least three years’ experience in teaching and/or research and must be able to demonstrate an outstanding reputation in the field. In addition, the employer must demonstrate that the position requires the services of an outstanding teacher or researcher and that the foreign national will be filling a tenure or tenure-track position (or an indefinite position in a non-academic research center).
  3. Intra-company transferee managers and executives - This sub-category recognizes that foreign companies with U.S. operations often prefer “home-grown” managers and executives in key positions in the U.S. operation. Thus, the standard for this category is the same as for the L-1 non-immigrant visa, i.e., the foreign national must have been a manager or executive for the foreign employer for at least one year during the three years prior to admission to the United States and must be filling a managerial or executive position with the related U.S. entity.

Professionals with advanced degrees and aliens of "exceptional ability" in the arts, sciences or business

For this category, the offered position must require a minimum of a post-baccalaureate degrees or exceptional ability in a field relevant to the proposed employment. The foreign national must meet the minimum requirements and possess the skills or knowledge which are necessary to the U.S. employer or will substantially benefit the United States prospectively. Labor certification is required but may be waived if the employment of the foreign national is in the “national interest.”

Other professionals and skilled/unskilled workers

For this category, the offered position must require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree for professionals, or two years of training or experience for skilled workers. Professionals with a bachelor’s degree in the relevant field of endeavor, skilled workers in jobs requiring at least two years of training or experience and unskilled laborers qualify in this category. Labor certification always is required in this category.

Special immigrants

This category principally used by foreign nationals who can demonstrate at least two years’ of experience as a worker for a religious denomination that has a bona fide, nonprofit organization in the United States. This category is also available for certain employees of international organizations and certain U.S. government employees employed abroad.

Investors and entrepreneurs

This category, which has an annual limit of 10,000 visas, was created to encourage business investment in the United States and provide employment opportunities for U.S. workers. In general, a foreign national seeking to qualify in this category must invest at least $1 million in a commercial enterprise, which will create at least 10 new jobs for U.S. workers. The investment amount may be as little as $900,000 in areas of high unemployment or in targeted job creation areas. Permanent residence is granted conditionally for the first two years; the conditional status is removed if the foreign national demonstrates that at least 10 U.S. workers are employed as a result of the qualifying investment. By placing the investment with an approved Regional Center, however, the investor is not required to show direct job creation.

State-specific immigration requirements

Unlike other states, Illinois does not have any specific requirements involving the verification of employees’ authorization to work in the United States. Illinois, does, however, prevent employers with 15 or more employees from discriminating against employees or job candidates based upon their citizenship status. Citizenship status is defined as the status of being any of the following:

  • a born U.S. citizen
  • a naturalized U.S. citizen
  • a U.S. national
  • a person born outside the United States and not a U.S. citizen who is not an unauthorized alien and who is protected from discrimination under the federal law.

In addition, employers are prohibited from using the E-Verify program (discussed previously) to check the immigration status of current employees or to pre-screen prospective employees that have not been offered a position with the company. Employers cannot discharge or otherwise retaliate against an employee or prospective employee for filing a complaint with the Illinois Department of Labor regarding this rule or for remedies sought in favor of the employee or prospective employee.