On June 12, 2011, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) will release its latest version of the E-Verify web user interface, which was designed to enhance usability, respond to user suggestions and thwart document fraud through driver’s license data verification. As with previous releases, the USCIS is not just performing a facelift here, but is also changing system logic and data validation rules in response to frequently voiced concerns.
Will the new interface and rules be a success? Or is the system becoming too complicated, like its one-page cousin, the Form I-9? Let’s take a brief look at the upcoming enhancements arriving on June 12th.
With over a quarter of a million employers now using E-Verify, the USCIS has been shifting into high gear of late to improve system usability and overall effectiveness. The ultimate goal of E-Verify is to accurately confirm a new hire’s work authorization following the I-9 process. It sounds simple enough, but many employers (and their counsel) run into two fundamental problems: (1) E-Verify introduces its own set of rules and procedures which often become muddled with traditional I-9 rules (imagine taking the 69-page I-9 manual and then doubling it!); and (2) the overall effectiveness of the program is largely dependent on the accuracy of social security numbers which can often be incorrect or fraudulently obtained.
Improving Data Validation
As we discussed some time ago, submitting an I-9 to E-Verify does not always go as planned. Being an electronic system, E-Verify naturally will require certain information to be entered a certain way. So social security numbers must have nine digits, your first name should not have a number in it, and if you were born before 1901, you’re out of luck as far as E-Verify is concerned.
Few employers are complaining about any of these rules. But what happens if your employee presents a US passport during the I-9 process? Under the current system, the US Passport number must always contain nine (9) digits with no letters (e.g., 123456789). Similarly, the US Passport Card number must always begin with the letter “C” followed by eight numeric digits (e.g., C12345678). As we discussed in the past, many older passports do not follow this convention and so employers frequently got stuck in the E-Verify mud (so to speak). Similarly, if you complete an E-Verify case for a nonimmigrant foreign national who presents a foreign passport with I-94, you may have difficulty entering the “Visa Number” which currently must be 8 digits without letters.
Fortunately, the new E-Verify release makes the following much-needed improvements:
These may seem like minor data fixes, but they should have a huge impact on large organizations that process hundreds (if not thousands) of E-Verify cases per year. E-Verify has enough rules and exceptions to keep track of, so we’ll gladly cross these two off our list.
E-Verify Hire Date
Imagine you’re looking for a job, and you receive this great offer today from an employer that you like. You immediately accept the offer and look forward to starting work next week. Now, let’s say I ask you the following: “What is your hire date?” Would you respond that your hire date is today? Or next week when you actually start work for pay? And why would I ask you such a strange question anyway? Well, the hire date has been another area where I-9 and E-Verify rules collide. Let’s examine more closely.
The I-9 regulations define the "hire date" as the first day the employee begins work for wages or other remuneration. In reality, the employee may have agreed to the employment some time in advance as in my example above. The E-Verify system, however, has never permitted an employer to record a future hire date in the system for fear that employers would mistakenly interpret this allowance as condoning the practice of “pre-screening” (which is not allowed). Needless to say, this has put some employers in a bind when they hire employees with future start dates and want to complete the I-9 and E-Verify case today. Should the employer change its I-9 process so that hire date refers to “offer and acceptance?” Or should the employer just set a reminder to perform the E-Verify query in the future when the employee starts work for pay?
In response to the confusion, the USCIS issued guidance last year which stated that if you perform an E-Verify query on an employee who has not yet started work for pay, the E-Verify “hire date” is the date you created the case in E-Verify. While this settled the issue for some employers, others felt that USCIS was essentially instructing them to lie on their own government system! And to make matters more confusing, employers may still have situations when the E-Verify query occurs after the employee starts work for pay, in which case the USCIS instructed employers that the hire date is “the date the employee started work for pay.” Confused yet?
Clearly, a solution was needed, and I’m happy to announce that starting on June 12, 2011, employers using the web version of E-Verify will be able to record a hire date up to 365 days in the future. So if I’m completing an E-Verify case today, I can enter a hire date up to June 8, 2012. How important is this change to the hire date logic? Well, I recently announced this news at a CUPA-HR event and received an enthusiastic round of applause from the audience (which I humbly, although not deservedly accepted). :) The USCIS also clarified (via its help screen) the following:
User Interface Design Employers using the web version of E-Verify (which would exclude most electronic I-9 users), will now be prompted to choose the specific List B and List C document which was presented during the I-9 process. Based on user feedback from a public engagement last year (blogged about here), the documents will display in two columns (mirroring the list on the I-9 form), however, the exact number of documents displayed will vary depending on the employee’s attested citizenship status.
Employers will also notice the following additional changes:
E-Verify RIDE (Records and Information from DMVs for E-Verify)
Last but not least, we discuss the E-Verify RIDE program. One of the persistent criticisms of E-Verify is that it cannot detect identity fraud when someone uses the documents of another person. USCIS has attempted to address this problem through the implementation of the photo match tool for permanent residency cards and employment authorization documents and the September 2010 addition to the matching tool of passport photographs. The fact remains though that employees use a driver’s license, driver’s permit, or state-issued ID card to establish their identity in approximately 95% of the cases submitted to E-Verify. Therefore, the photo tool (which only covers the limited documents above) has had relatively limited use.
USCIS is now taking it to the next level with the introduction of the E-Verify RIDE program, which gives employers the ability to validate an employee’s driver’s license, driver’s permit, or state-issued ID card (if presented during the I-9 process) against Motor Vehicle Agency (MVA) data. Initially, RIDE will be released as a pilot, with only the state of Mississippi participating and only driver’s licenses and permits being verified. Here’s how it will work:
What does this mean for employers using electronic I-9 systems?
Employers using electronic I-9 systems will need to wait until the DHS finalizes its latest Interface Control Agreement (version 23) which will provide all of the new technical specifications needed by software vendors to operate under the latest E-Verify rules. Once the ICA has been released, employers should expect to see the new version within 6 months or less (as required by the rules).
That’s all for now! Stay tuned for further updates on the always unpredictable E-Verify RIDE!