Landing a new job is always exciting but it can leave people feeling as if they’re having to jump through a lot of hoops – which include legal requirements, such as identification. If you have the skill and the employer is happy to take you on, why can’t you just get on with it? Why do you need to have identification? Well, ID is important for a number of reasons, and increasingly so. It’s there to protect employees, employers, investors and the state.
ID issues in America
There are an estimated 41.3 million immigrants in the USA, 11.4 million of whom are unauthorized (source). Still more are not fully registered and don’t have all the forms of identification they’re likely to need in day to day life. Many unauthorized immigrants have worked in the country for years but lack of documentation can make them vulnerable to exploitation because they have no recourse to the legal system if their rights are not respected – they can’t even enter most public buildings.
This is why some cities, like New York, are introducing municipal ID schemes. Through these schemes, unauthorized immigrants will be able to access key service, enabling them to play a fuller role in social and economic life. It makes life easier for thousands of people, including children, and it can be done relatively quickly because it isn’t the same thing as naturalization – it won’t grant full citizenship or access to things like welfare payments.
ID and voting
For full citizens, one of the most important times to have up to date ID is when it’s time to vote in elections. This can be complicated, however, because different states have different requirements when it comes to voter registration, and these can change again when – in two-thirds of states – voters are required to show documents on the day. Concern has been raised that this can effectively discriminate against some groups of people who are less likely to have certain forms of ID or less likely to find that it’s accepted.
Identification in business
When it comes to business, employers need to know social security numbers in order to be confident that their relationship with their employees is legally valid and make sure that taxes are paid properly. If they employ somebody who isn’t authorized to work in the USA then they, as well as the employee, could find themselves in trouble.
In the event of a dispute with an employee, they need to be able to track them down, and if an employee is injured, they may need to be able to contact family members. They may need to be able to check the employee’s credentials to know if they are qualified to perform certain tasks without breaching health and safety rules. In some situations it’s also important for them to be able to find out if an employee has a criminal record, for reasons of public safety.
ID and investment
It’s never more important to know who you’re dealing with in business than when it comes to investment. If you’re thinking of investing in a company, you need to be able to research the histories of its key personnel in order to be able to predict how it’s likely to fare.
If you’re looking for somebody to invest in your company, you also need to do research, as you’ll need to know how that investor has treated other companies previously invested in. You’ll also need to be sure that people who approach you are genuinely interested in investing and are not, for instance, spies for rival companies, because you may be sharing sensitive information during the negotiation process.
ID and security
In some professions, ID checks are also important for security reasons. In jobs where sensitive government jobs are handled or where employees have access to hazardous biological materials, for instance, the Department of Homeland Security needs to be able to keep track of who is doing what. This means it’s much easier to investigate if any concerns are raised, to rule innocent people out of inquiries quickly and to keep all Americans safer.
Protecting your identity
Because of the value of your identity, it’s important that you protect it. Stolen ID can be of use to criminals of all types, from fraudsters to terrorists. It could see you lose money from your bank account or be landed with the blame for other people’s dodgy dealings. This is why it’s important to use strong passwords to protect your online identity and to keep all your physical forms of ID in a secure place. It’s also why you should report it straight away if any of your ID goes missing.
Keeping ID up to date
Many forms of identification expire after a certain amount of time. This helps to reduce the risk of identity theft – or at least its successful exploitation – but it also means those documents are not much use to you if you don’t keep them up to date.
It’s also important that you know how to replace pieces of ID that you lose. This doesn’t need to be difficult – there are systems in place to facilitate easy social security card replacement, for instance, so that you’re not at risk of being stuck for a prolonged period in a situation where you can’t get a new job. It’s a good idea to check on your ID every couple months if you’re not using it regularly, rather than looking for it only on the day you need it and running the risk of discovering only then that it’s not where you thought it was.
As well as replacing lost or expired identification, some people need to change what it says on their ID. The most common reason for this is a name change following marriage, but there can be a number of other reasons, such as taking on a new name following a religious conversion or being legally recognised as male after growing up with a female identity. Making changes like this can be a challenge because poorly built databases operated by big companies such as banks often reset themselves, reverting the stored data to its original form. Fortunately, most state and federal database managers recognize this problem, so you should still be able to get your most important pieces of identification sorted out without a problem – you’ll just need to allow a little extra time to do it in.
Ultimately, your identification represents your legal status. In business it’s not only important to getting you that job – it also ensures that you get paid properly and don’t fall foul of the IRS. Considering everything it can do for you, it’s worth the effort to get it sorted out properly.