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The Employment Authorization Question: Ask, But Ask Carefully

Foley & Lardner LLP (03/12/12) Anita M. Sorenson

To help ensure hiring of a legal work force, companies typically ask job applicants about work authorization early in the application process. Asking about work authorization on the employment application, instead of during an interview, ensures that the question is asked of each applicant in the same manner. The question must also be asked using the proper language and focus. If the question is not asked properly, companies may run into trouble with the U.S. Department of Justice’s Office of Special Counsel or with the U.S. Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

Applicants should not be asked about their immigration, visa, or citizenship status. They also should not be asked to provide proof of work authorization during the application process. An appropriate question would be: Are you authorized to work lawfully in the U.S. for [insert company name]?