E-Verify Photo Matching of US Citizens Starts in September

Today, E-Verify formally announced that it will be expanding the photo matching process to include U.S. passports in September and driver’s license information in 2011 on a limited trial basis. The immediate change next month will give E-Verify-participating employers the opportunity to compare the photo from a US passport presented during the I-9 process with the government’s digitally stored photo online. At present, the photo matching screen will only appear for foreign national employees who have presented a recent version of a permanent resident card (I-551) or employment authorization document (EAD) during the I-9 process. It’s also important to note that the photo matching process is not yet mandatory for employers using E-Verify through a web services interface (most commonly associated with an electronic I-9 system). Implemented in September 2007, the photo matching process was designed to detect instances where an undocumented worker had obtained or created a fake immigration document by pasting (or otherwise manipulating) his/her photograph on a real document belonging to someone else. The E-Verify system alone would not necessarily catch these individuals, since the underlying document information may, in fact, be authentic. When the photo screen activates, the employer is instructed to compare a copy of the photo ID presented by the employee with the photo displayed in E-Verify to see if they are reasonably identical (taking into account minor variances in shading and other details). If the employer indicates that the two images do not match, the E-Verify system will return a DHS Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC) and the employee is given the opportunity to contest. A recent study by the consulting firm, Westat, found that while the photo screening tool had increased the effectiveness of E-Verify in indentifying undocumented workers, its overall impact was modest due in large part to the fact that the tool only has only applied to foreign nationals presenting green cards or work authorization documents. The study hypothesized that undocumented workers may choose to obtain other fraudulent document to get around this E-Verify loophole. As a result, Westat and many others have strongly recommended the inclusion of additional photo documents, particularly those that apply to US citizens (e.g, a US passport) and are frequently presented (e.g., a driver’s license). In today’s announcement (posted in the “News” section of the “E-Verify User Home Page), E-Verify also reminded employers that the US passport enhancement in September will require E-Verify users to take a short tutorial to learn about the new feature before they may resume their use of the system (employers working with an E-Verify Employer Agent should be trained by the agent). E-Verify is also inviting interested parties to learn more about the 2011 driver’s license pilot program by participating in a 30-minute webinar on Wednesday September 1 at 1:00 p.m. eastern time.