Georgia State Immigration Laws
In 2011, Georgia enacted a strict set of immigration laws covering a wide range of activities relating to daily life. For starters, however, it is important to be aware of the relationship between state and federal law when it comes to subjects involving immigration. Below you will find information on what, if any, rules Georgia has regarding immigration checks by law enforcement, educational institutions, and employers, as well as the existence of E-Verify requirements, restrictions on public benefits based on an individual's immigration status, and more. Lastly, please note that many of these provisions have been challenged in court and some are subject to blocks on their enforcement. For the most up-to-date information you may want to contact a local attorney specializing in immigration law.
Law Enforcement and Immigration in Georgia
One controversial aspect of Georgia's immigration law is a requirement that law enforcement officers check the immigration status of suspects who cannot provide identification upon request. The law applies to individuals subject to a traffic stop, but makes exceptions for victims of crime and witnesses. Even though immigration and enforcement are typically matters dealt with by federal immigration authorities, an increasing number of local and county law enforcement officials, such as those in Georgia, are starting to assist with, investigate, or pursue suspected immigration-related offenses.
Additionally, under a federal program known as "Secure Communities", all individuals arrested are fingerprinted and run through a database which checks their immigration status. However, some states are considering and sometimes passing legislation permitting local governments to "opt out" of such programs.
Georgia's law makes it a crime for individuals to seek and/or acquire work using fake identification documents. It imposes severe penalties on violators, including prison time and fines.
Georgia E-Verify Requirements
Georgia requires public employers, contractors and subcontractors to use E-Verify to verify their workers' and new hires' authorization to work. Private employers must also use E-Verify if they have 10 or more employees. The law applying to private employers took effect in January 2012 and is being implemented in phases based on the size of employers.
Driver's License/ID Requirements
Georgia requires that all applicants for driver's licenses provide proof of identity, residency in the state, and citizenship or lawful residenship in the U.S. Please refer to Georgia's Department of Driver's Services for more information.
Public Benefits Restrictions
Under federal law, illegal immigrants are prohibited from receiving public benefits, although they are allowed to receive emergency services, health care, and other programs that have been identified as "necessary to protect life and safety." Georgia's new law also imposes identification requirements on individuals seeking a variety of public benefits, such as food stamps.
Educational Rules and Restrictions
Georgia explicitly prohibits illegal immigrants from paying in-state tuition rates at state schools.
Voter ID Rules
Georgia is one of a small number of states with some of the most strict voter ID policies in effect. Georgia voters must present a photo ID at the voting booth in order to vote. If unable to provide one of the acceptable forms of photo ID, they can still vote using a provisional ballot but will have to provide a photo ID at the county registrar's office within 2 days of the election.
Other Immigration Rules
Litigation over many of Georgia's immigration law's provisions is currently ongoing, and some aspects have already been blocked by court. For the most comprehensive and up-to-date information on Georgia law please contact local officials or an attorney specializing in immigration law.