On Apr 27 2009 by Elise A. Fialkowski

USCIS Continues to Encourage Use of E-Verify

In early April, Michael Aytes, Acting Deputy Director of United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) testified before the House Committee on Appropriations, Subcommittee on Homeland Security regarding the status of the E-Verify Program.

Aytes provided detail of the program’s performance, improvements the agency has made and will continue to make in the E-Verify system, and future plans to make the I-9 easier to complete and to monitor use of the E-Verify system.  A summary of his testimony is after the jump.

E-Verify is a voluntary web-based system that electronically verifies the employment eligibility of newly-hired employees.  The program is the result of a joint effort by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA), and is administered by the USCIS.  The program works by comparing information that the employer enters from the Form I-9 against more than 425 million records in SSA’s database and more than 80 million records in DHS’ immigration databases.  Results are returned within seconds.  Once the I-9 information is submitted the employer will be notified in the employee is work authorized, is not work authorized or if there is a tentative non-confirmation (TNC) between the information listed on the I-9 and the database.

Aytes began his testimony by thanking the Subcommittee for its continued support of the program through their $100 million appropriation for E-Verify for Fiscal Year 2009.  He went on to reaffirm that “DHS believes E-Verify is an essential tool for employers committed to maintaining a legal workforce” and to discuss the growth of the program over the past several years.  Aytes confirmed that much of the increase is due to a number of states enacting legislation requiring employers to use E-Verify.  Currently over 117,000 employers are enrolled in the program, in over 456,000 locations.  An average of 1,000 employers enroll weekly in the program.  Thus far in 2009 employers have run over 3.6 million queries.  The volume of queries doubled from 2007 to 2008 from 3.27 million to 6.6 million.  According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics data, over 14% of all nonagricultural new hires in the U.S are run though E-Verify.

Aytes stated that of all the cases verified through E-Verify, only 3.9% of queries resulted in a mismatch, or a TNC.  Of that figure, 0.4% of queries are those who were issued a TNC and successfully contested the case.  The remaining 3.5 % of queries that are not found work authorized by the system either did not contest the TNC, were unsuccessful in contesting the findings or were found unauthorized to work.

In 2008, the E-Verify system implemented changes to reduce typographical errors, incorporating a photo screening tool for DHS documents to screen for fraudulent documents, established a Monitoring and Compliance Branch to oversee that employers are using E-Verify correctly, and added new databases to further reduce mismatches.  USCIS also established a toll-free number to address citizenship mismatches as an alternative to visiting SSA.  The Service also added the Integrated Border Inspection System (IBIS) real time arrival and departure information for non-citizens to further reduce E-Verify mismatches that result from delays in data entry of information E-Verify uses for non-citizen arrival information.

Aytes also discussed the signing of a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) between the DHS and Department of State (DOS) to share passport data and photographs from the DOS’ records.  In February 2009, USCIS began incorporating passport data into E-Verify in order to check citizenship status information in the event of a mismatch with SSA.

The testimony also discussed the establishment by USCIS of a Monitoring and Compliance Branch dedicated to monitoring the use of the E-Verify system and providing compliance assistance.  The Monitoring and Compliance Branch aims to safeguard personal privacy information, prevent the fraudulent use of counterfeit documents, and refer instances of fraud, discrimination, and illegal or unauthorized use of the system to enforcement authorities.  This will be further supported by data analysis and case management provided by a Case Tracking and Management System that will be launched later in 2009.  Notably, E-Verify has instituted procedures to refer cases of non-compliance to Immigration and Customs Enforcement and the Department of Justice’s Office of Special Counsel for Immigration Related Unfair Employment Practices.  USCIS recently signed a MOA with ICE establishing guidelines for referrals and sharing of information.

Aytes stated that it is the goal of the Agency to continue to make enhancements to the Photo Tool by expanding the types of documents available to provide photo confirmation, such as Driver’s License Photos.  However, to date, no state has yet agreed to add its driver’s license data to the system.  Currently, only DHS-issued identity documents such as Employment Authorization Documents and Permanent Resident Cards are displayed in the photo tool.  This effort will be combined with a reduction in the number of documents acceptable for Form I-9 purposes, such as those listed on the new I-9 Form which became effective April 3, 2009.

The USCIS further plans to improve the system’s ability to automatically verify international students and exchange visitors through the incorporation of ICE’s Student and Exchange Visitors Information System (SEVIS) data.  E-Verify also plans to provide automated system updates for any new hire with Temporary Protected Status (TPS) who has an expired EAD but is within an auto-extension time period.  This system enhancement will decrease the number of new-hires of TPS recipients that receive an initial mismatch or TNC.

Interestingly, the USCIS is also working to implement an electronic I-9 as part of the E-Verify process.  The first phase of this enhancement includes developing a stand-alone Form I-9 in portable format that will allow employers to electronically create, sign, and store the completed forms.  In a future enhancement, the electronic Form I-9 will pre-fill the fields in E-Verify, eliminating the need for employers to input the data into the system after it was already recorded on the Form I-9.