E-Verify – What is it?

E-Verify (formerly known as the Basic Pilot/Employment Eligibility Verification Program) is a free Internet based system that electronically verifies the employment eligibility of newly hired employees. The verification program has existed for more than a decade, but is now being promoted by the Bush administration as a Homeland Security and Immigration control measure. The program is operated by the Department of Homeland Security (“DHS”) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (“SSA”). The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (“USCIS”) is the agency in DHS responsible for administering the program. USCIS promotes the program as an essential tool for employers committed to maintaining a legal workforce. The program is easily accessible through a user-friendly government Web site, which allows employers to verify employment eligibility in three (3) to five (5) seconds. The program essentially compares employee information taken from Form I-9 with more than 444 million records in the SSA database, and more than 60 million records in DHS immigration databases.

Essentially, once enrolled, an employer must initiate a query by entering key information from Form I-9 into the E-Verify database within three days of an employee starting work. The key information that must be entered includes: the employee’s name and date of birth, social security number, the citizenship status he or she attests to, and the type of document provided on Form I-9 to establish work authorization status. Additionally, the following would be entered in the initial query, if applicable: an A number or I-94 number, and proof of identity, and its expiration date. Once the information is entered into the query, the employer will submit the query and wait a few seconds for a response. Depending upon the response, the employee will continue to work for the employer, or they will contest a Tentative Non-confirmation (“TNC”) or mismatch with the appropriate federal agency within eight federal business days. If the program issues a final non-confirmation, the employee shall not be further employed.

E-Verify is an entirely voluntary program, as such the government may not mandate its use by the states, according to the tenth amendment of the U.S. Constitution. However, some Federal Government employers and violators of certain immigration laws may be ordered to participate.

Under E-Verify, Employees have Rights Too

Quick lists of Employee rights are available online at at the USCIS website and downloadable in eight different languages. Some of the key points are summarized below. Not only must employers post a notice informing employees of their use of E-Verify, they must also only use E-Verify after hire and after completion of the Form I-9, that way employees are protected from pre-screening discrimination practices. Additionally, if an employee receives an information mismatch, the employer must provide the employee with the necessary information to challenge the mismatch, including a written notice generated by E-Verify, and allow him/her eight federal government work days to contest the mismatch. Most importantly, the employer may not take any adverse action against an employee because he/she contests the mismatch; this includes firing, suspension, withholding pay or training, or otherwise infringing upon his/her employment.