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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?

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    Is this for a job that requires a security clearance (US citizens only)? – Mike Harris Dec 8 '17 at 20:18
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    Is the job in the US? I added the US tag based on what you said in the question, but please confirm. – Monica Cellio Dec 8 '17 at 21:23
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    It's a certificate, certificates are there to proof things, anyone would be able to lie about the question whether or not they are a US citizien. It can also help to prevent identity theft and help them check facts about you (eg. whether you actually have the name you put on your application and if your CV is correct). – HopefullyHelpful Dec 8 '17 at 21:48
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    Is it significant that they ask you to "bring" rather than "supply" or "submit"? – DJohnM Dec 8 '17 at 21:57
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    Would it be possible just to ask them why they need it? – Long Dec 9 '17 at 4:40
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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.

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    And possibly they have been burned in the past by making an offer to someone who then could not provide documents showing they were legal to work in the US. – HLGEM Dec 8 '17 at 16:29
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    Doesn't it run against I-9/USCIS rules/Immigration and Nationality Act? 'Employers must not: Demand that an employee show specific documents, Ask to see employment authorization documents before an individual accepts a job offer (...)'. This runs against both of quoted rules. – Maciej Piechotka Dec 8 '17 at 17:57
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    @MaciejPiechotka That information deserves to be it's own answer, not just a comment, as it opens up other, significant issues. – Makyen Dec 8 '17 at 18:37
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    @MaciejPiechotka, from EEOC.gov "Federal law also prohibits employers from conducting the Form I-9 and E-Verify processes before the employee has accepted an offer of employment." This behavior appears to be illegal, OP should consider consulting a legal professional – wnnmaw Dec 8 '17 at 19:06
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    @wnnmaw Conducting the form I-9 is illegal before the employee has accepted the offer of employment. But what is keeping the company from making an offer and then doing the forms there. Why not ask the potential employee to bring their birth certificate in case you decide to offer them employment? Its not like there is a cost or harm to the potential employee from bringing it. And its nice to know if your potential employees are obstinate mules before you hire them.... – kingledion Dec 8 '17 at 20:07
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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.

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    The term to google is "ITAR compliance". – Monica Cellio Dec 8 '17 at 16:41
  • I think this is more likely than premature evaluation of work ordinary work authorization. I'm a US permanent resident. For US work authorization, I show my green card, which is evidence of both identity and permission to work in the US. There are buildings and facilities in the US that I cannot enter, and jobs that do require US citizenship. – Patricia Shanahan Dec 9 '17 at 0:57
  • @MonicaCellio A quick search shows that it limits the information to 'US Persons' including permanent residents and political asylees. It would need to be much more restrictive security clearance than ITAR. – Maciej Piechotka Dec 9 '17 at 10:48
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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.

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.

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    Asking for specific documents, and checking them before making a job offer, could be a means towards covert discrimination against other people, not just the OP. – Patricia Shanahan Dec 9 '17 at 15:01
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See here: https://www.uscis.gov/us-citizenship/proof-us-citizenship-and-identification-when-applying-job

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.

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    I suspect you're overthinking this: if they need to know this information for "newly hired" employees, then they can avoid the expense (however minor) of pursuing and extending an offer to someone who ultimately is not eligible, and at the same time reduce paperwork after the hire if they've already verified this information. – GalacticCowboy Dec 8 '17 at 19:32
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    @GalacticCowboy Another website provided in someone else's comment also states that it is illegal to "Ask to see employment authorization documents before an individual accepts a job offer". – David K Dec 8 '17 at 19:39
  • Dan, I agree. Your link says: "U.S. birth certificate along with a government-issued photo identification document." as one of the two choices. I've only been asked once and they got photocopies. It is one of those "we know what we want, will you do it" things. Hang onto your stuff until it's time, everything is leverage if they've got a list that continues to grow; that why no one messes with people, unless they figure they can. – Rob Dec 8 '17 at 23:57
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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.

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... 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.

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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.

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    Interesting point. I've had to sign a couple of NDAs for previous work and have never been asked for any form of identification. – tpm900 Dec 9 '17 at 15:01
  • @tpm900 you show ID to the Notary Public when signing things that will be witnessed by such. – JDługosz Dec 10 '17 at 3:10

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