I've completed my phone screen with the company about a week ago, and they are now scheduling me for an onsite interview. However, they are asking me to bring either my birth certificate or passport with me. This is the first time I've been asked this as part of the job interviewing process. They had asked me in the phone screen whether or not I was a US citizen, I am, but I've been asked that numerous times before and have never been required to show my birth certificate. What's the purpose behind showing a birth certificate or passport before even finishing the interview process?
What's the purpose behind showing a birth certificate or passport before even finishing the interview process?
They most likely want this so that you can fill out the form proving you are eligible to work.
In the United States, it is Form I-9. This is probably a time saving mechanism for them before extending an offer.
Mister Positive's answer provides one possibility, I've seen another. Depending on the industry and the work of the organization, they may require compliance with laws and regulations regarding export of the things they work on. Everything beyond the lobby may require controls in place. Knowing your citizenship status is necessary to ensure you can be in the facility and what kind of controls are necessary.
As pointed out by others, it might be an attempt to speed up the process of I-9 - electronic verification that you are eligible to work in the US. However, if this is the case, they have done a few things wrong.
First of all, any of the I-9 documents from list A or any combination from list B and C are valid and the employer may not require any particular combination.
Second, the employer may not ask for any such document before you accept their offer.
There might be different requirements for jobs requiring security clearance or something. I'm not familiar with them, but you would probably know about it from the job offer advertisement.
I don't see what might go wrong for the employee if they present their birth certificate unless the employer decides to discriminate against you because of it (I'd foresee more liability being placed on the employer as they get irrelevant protected information they can potentially discriminate against) but then I am not a lawyer.
It answers your question.
It says very clearly that it applies to just hired employees, not potential:
Every employer in the United States must verify that each newly hired employee can be legally employed in the United States. A U.S. citizen may show a variety of evidence to meet this requirement:
So it begs the question why you are being asked to provide this before being hired. It's unclear who "they" are in your question and I assume you are in contact with a HR rep and you possibly interviewed with a manager at the department you applied for. It could be HR got the wrong message from the manager and assumes you are a new hire. It could also mean you got the job but they never told you.
Honestly I would question this because it could mean a sloppy workplace if they don't know what is going on.
Here is the most charitable explanation: If the interview goes well, they may be hoping that you'll be signed on as a new employee by the end of the visit. I would not find this especially surprising for a job in retail, for example.
If it's for a role where quick sign-on would not be a reasonably expected outcome of even a very positive interview, the most charitable explanation is that they are trying to verify legal permission to work early on, to avoid later delays and/or avoid going through the work of making an offer to someone who can't actually start work and do the job. As other answers indicate, this is probably illegal, but starting out with an adversarial tone citing legal specifics is unfortunately unlikely to enhance (and more likely to hurt) your odds of actually getting the job.
You might be able to ask the recruiter directly, what the documents are needed for and if they're really needed at the interview specifically. Would they really deny an interview if you showed up without those documents (especially if you'd asked in advance, instead of just appearing forgetful or unprepared)? Probably not, but it can be useful to ask for the reason. They might also understand if you don't have those paper documents handy and would have to get them out of storage etc., assuming you indicate you'd be able and happy to do so before starting work there.
Is the interview at a controlled facility, for example a part of the US government? I've been to controlled facilities where visitors must prove citizenship just to get into the building and into an office/conference room (for an interview or any other purpose), and visitors or groups which included non-citizens meant having to change the meeting venue and convincing the hosts to leave their own space for that alternate venue.
... they are asking me to bring either my birth certificate or passport with me.
That's not saying that they want you to provide it to them before the second interview and before they actually do hire you (unless they actually did say that), only that you bring it with you.
My guess is that they may want you to have it with you in case they want to make an offer to hire you at the end of the second interview.
Also, they may have already decided to hire you but as a formality they are required by policy to have a second interview.
In any case (for future reference), you could have let them know that you have the document available but wonder why they need it at that (second interview) time.
Another possibility why they might ask for something like this is that maybe, before they proceed with the actual interview, they might want you to sign an NDA.
I have never signed one of those and I have no idea what documents are required for something like this, but it is a possibility. Although, afaik, they usually mention this on the phone or in an email message, a step which maybe was skipped accidentally.
If I were you, I would go to the interview and take these documents with me. When/if they ask for them, I would ask what they're needed for and evaluate the situation on the spot. These are important documents which contain a lot of personally identifiable information; it's very reasonable to inquire into why they need them.