E-Verify Photo Matching of US Passports Begins September 26, 2010

USCIS announced today (through the E-Verify user portal) that it will be adding the photo matching process for US passports on September 26, 2010 (approximately two weeks away). As previously reported, this change will require E-Verify-participating employers to compare the photo from a US passport presented during the I-9 process with the government’s digitally stored photo online (if available). USCIS also indicated that the photo matching process for US passports will follow the same rules as photo matching for the permanent resident card (I-551) or employment authorization document (EAD). Here is a quick synopsis of how this will most likely work (based upon the current process):

1. If an employee presents a US passport, the employer will be required to make a photocopy of the passport biographic page and keep it with the employee’s I-9.

2. If the photo screen activates during the E-Verify process, the employer will be instructed to compare the passport copy with the photo displayed in E-Verify to see if they are reasonably identical (taking into account minor variances in shading and other details).

3. 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 will be given the opportunity to contest.

4. If the employee contests a TNC based upon a photo non-match, the employer will send a copy of the passport copy to DHS for review by scanning/uploading the document or sending a photocopy by an express mail account (at the employer’s own expense).

It’s unclear when E-Verify will be releasing a new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) to account for these procedural changes and obligations. Also, as previously mentioned, the photo matching process is not yet mandatory for employers working with E-Verify employer agents through a web services interface (most commonly associated with an electronic I-9 system). Web service developers have until December of this year to add photo matching functionality and other changes from the June 2010 E-Verify redesign. USCIS also reminded employers that when you login for the first time on or after September 26th, you will be prompted to complete a short tutorial that explains the photo process and pass a test (to see if you were paying attention). Employers with new hires starting the week of September 26th are well-advised to login and take the test early, so verifications performed that day can proceed smoothly. A screenshot of today’s announcement is below.