Today, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) released its latest round of E-Verify enhancements, which will go into effect immediately for all users of the E-Verify web interface. Unlike the previous June 2011 update, these changes are fairly subtle – which will be welcome news for all those E-Verify administrators out there who are responsible for constantly updating internal manuals, training guides, and policies.
Before we go any further, it’s important to note that this latest E-Verify release only affects those organizations (or agents) that access E-Verify directly through a web browser. Employers using an electronic I-9 system (which automatically sends I-9 information to the E-Verify system through a secure connection) will be unaffected by these changes today.
So without further delay, let’s take a closer look at what E-Verify has in store for us!
Web browser issues are always a lot of fun (sarcasm intended) – not only for end users, but for IT folks as well. A web developer once told me that life is too short to support all browsers (at the time, I think he was struggling with a particularly stubborn font issue in Internet Explorer). As a result, we often try to access a site with our favorite browser, only to receive a short message telling us we’re out of luck. If you’ve ever experienced that with E-Verify, you’ll be happy to hear that E-Verify now supports the following browsers (in addition to Internet Explorer 6.0 and above):
During the past two years, employers have seen a steady increase in E-Verify compliance initiatives – both at the state and federal levels. For example, South Carolina has been conducting an increasing number of random E-Verify audits to ensure employers are complying with the South Carolina Illegal Immigration and Reform Act. Similarly, both the USCIS Monitoring and Compliance unit and the Office of Special Counsel may also ask to see detailed E-Verify reports when issues of potential E-Verify misuse (or discrimination) arise.
To facilitate such inquiries, the USCIS has added a new “Quick Audit Report” which will allow companies to generate an Excel spreadsheet of E-Verify case data (e.g, basic company and case identifiers and case resolution information) for a particular time period and state location. In addition, the report purposely excludes sensitive employee information such as Social Security numbers or document numbers. Employers using an electronic I-9 system can continue to rely upon their vendor to provide these reports (and note, a good vendor should provide them free of charge!)
Perhaps the most significant change (at least for those who deal with foreign national new hires) is a new set of fields, which will automatically appear for “aliens authorized to work” who present a Foreign Passport with an attached I-94. Under this new enhancement, employers will now be required to enter the “country of issuance” and “foreign passport number” into the E-Verify case before they can move forward.
Why the change, you might ask? As previously reported, the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is in the process of eliminating the paper I-94 Arrival/Departure record which is issued to certain foreign nationals upon entry to the U.S. And in doing so, CBP is now taking up to 45 days to input the I-94 information into the DHS system. Since E-Verify relies upon that information to confirm work authorization, the agency has been warning that employers may experience an increase in Tentative Nonconfirmations (TNC). Providing the foreign passport number and country issuance may now enable an employer to avoid the dreaded TNC altogether.
One other point worth noting – in their instructions, the USCIS indicates that employers should “record the country of issuance and foreign passport number on Form I-9” before submitting to E-Verify. While this certainly makes sense, employers should recognize that this has been an I-9 requirement for some time – in other words, if your employee presents a foreign passport with an I-94, you should be recording the passport country of issuance in the List A column for issuing authority and the foreign passport number in the document number field. In the very near future, we will also see these fields in section 1 of the new Form I-9.
New Features for Corporate Administrators
Last but not least, the USCIS has added a new Web-based tutorial for Corporate Administrators (those who manage multiple E-Verify accounts) which replaces the live webinar training that was previously required. The USCIS has also added a new E-Verify User Manual for Corporate Administrators, which can be downloaded from the ‘View User Manual’ link under My Resources in the left-hand navigation menu.