E-Verify Update: Self Check Goes Live on March 21, 2011 in Select US Locations
On Thursday, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) held an engagement in Washington, DC to demonstrate the new E-Verify Self Check program and elicit stakeholder feedback. As previously reported, the E-Verify Self-Check online application will enable individuals to check their work authorization status prior to being hired and facilitate the correction of errors which might lead to a tentative nonconfirmation (TNC). Featuring a panel of E-Verify experts from the USCIS, the session provided an illustrative walk-through of the new Self Check process and the steps that USCIS has taken to ensure data privacy and protect against potential employer misuse. We also heard the plan for Self Check rollout and future enhancements coming in the next few months. Now, on to the specifics! Self Check Rollout USCIS is releasing the E-Verify Self Check service on March 21st (note the date change from our previous article) in carefully planned phases to allow for proper testing and feedback. Initially, the service will only be offered to individuals that maintain an address and are physically located in Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, Virginia, or the District of Columbia. According to the USCIS, these particular locations were chosen based on a variety of factors including E-Verify case volume (which is certainly higher in states with E-Verify laws such as Arizona, Mississippi, and Colorado) in addition to more practical concerns such as whether the local SSA offices are equipped to handle the additional workload of addressing social security mismatches. Now, you might ask, how will they be able to enforce the “physically located” requirement mentioned above? According to the USCIS, the system will restrict access to only those users with an IP (Internet Protocol) address originating in one of those locations. When questioned about the anticipated rollout for additional state locations, the USCIS responded that the timeframes are still being developed and will largely depend upon the initial user experience and feedback. The Identity Check As previously outlined, the E-Verify Self Check process starts with an identity authentication step which is designed to prevent others from viewing an individual’s sensitive information. The USCIS representative assured the audience that they are requiring the minimum amount of personal data (name, DOB, address, and optional SSN) for this process, and that all data is wiped clean in the event the user cancels the self-check mid-stream. USCIS also indicated that the ID check is a “soft hit” – meaning it will not have any impact on credit scores. Once this information has been submitted, users are redirected to an independent identity assurance service page (which looks visibly different than the USCIS site) where they are instructed to take a quiz which is generated based upon the person’s credit history. During the demonstration, we saw 4 different questions generated for Thomas Jefferson: 1. At which of the following, now or in the past, have you worked? 2. Which of the following is your latest start date at the above referenced employer? 3. On which of the following streets have you lived? 4. Which of the following is either your current or your previous telephone number? And fortunately for Thomas Jefferson, “none of the above” was a possible choice for question #4. Work Authorization Check Assuming an individual is able to answer all of the questions, he or she is then redirected back to the USCIS site to enter additional information needed for the E-Verify query. The USCIS representative pointed out that users cannot change the person’s name or DOB information at this stage. E-Verify Self Check will then contact the E-Verify system through a web service connection and will present one of three results: (1) Work Authorization Confirmed; (2) Possible mismatch with SSA Information or (3) Possible mismatch with Immigration Information. Let’s quickly look at each.
Work Authorization Confirmed – in most cases, the system will display the work authorization confirmed page which simply informs the user that “if you are hired today by an E-Verify participating employer and you use the same documents and information provided, you will most likely be instantly work authorized when your employers checks your information using E-Verify.” So in other words, self check can provide peace of mind, but no guarantees. The USCIS also deliberately omitted certain information from the “confirmation” page (e.g., no last name, transaction number, credential, etc.) to reinforce the notion that this cannot be used as proof of employment authorization. It’s merely a tool which enables individuals to check and plan ahead for the eventual E-Verify query when hired by an E-Verify participating employer.
Possible Mismatch with SSA – E-Verify Self Check will prompt the individual to choose whether he or she will visit the SSA to investigate the issue or not the visit the SSA (remember, there’s no requirement in Self Check to resolve the mismatch). If the person clicks “I will visit SSA,” a modified SSA referral letter is generated which provides the reason for the referral and other information. The individual can then take this letter to an SSA office to hopefully resolve the issue. As a side note, the USCIS indicated that SSA staff are receiving additional training on how to assist with Self Check issues. One important difference with Self Check is that SSA staff will not use the EV-STAR backend system to communicate the responses back to an employer.
Possible Mismatch with Immigration Information – E-Verify Self Check will prompt the individual to choose whether he or she wishes DHS to further review work eligibility or skip review altogether. If “Please Review” is chosen, a DHS note is generated which provides basic information about the query. The individual is then instructed to wait 5 days (while DHS researches the issue) and then call DHS (no in-person visits).
Challenges As mentioned above, in order to use the system, an individual must pass through an identity check that is generated based on the person’s credit history. If the person does not have a sufficient credit “foot print” in the U.S., the system will not allow him to move forward. According to the USCIS, the identity assurance service should be able to generate quizzes for roughly 87% to 90% of the population. The problem, however, is that many foreign-born individuals will not have any financial footprint in the U.S. at all. This is especially problematic for newly arrived foreign national workers in L-1 or J-1 status (for example), who have been known to receive a significant number of TNCs. Several participants also expressed concerns about newly arrived refugees who only possess an I-94 card with a refugee admission stamp for work authorization purposes (which serves as a receipt for the I-9, but cannot be entered in E-Verify). Most of this discussion was slightly off topic (as pertains to Self Check), but the issues raised do highlight the concerns of E-Verify as a whole. Improvements and Suggestions The USCIS indicated that there are several additional enhancements to Self-Check on the way, including letters in the Spanish language and an entirely Spanish web version by the end of the summer (projected). Undoubtedly, there will also be improvements in response to user feedback over the next few months. During our meeting, participants also made a few good suggestions regarding interface changes to Self Check, which include:
- Providing employees the ability to notify USCIS when an employer is misusing the system (e.g., improperly requiring self-check as a pre-condition of employment)
- Changing the wording on the “Work Authorization Confirmed” page to make it clear that this document does not confer work authorization and cannot be used for employment verification
- Provide individuals with guidance on how to update information with credit agencies (e.g., if information on the ID check pages is inaccurate)
- Interact closely with state and local agencies (many of which use E-Verify) to ensure they understand the limitations of Self Check
For a nifty self-guided tour, check out the USCIS “clickable” E-Verify Interactive Preview here.