Hot Off the Press: the Latest and Greatest I-9 and E-Verify News

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has released the fourth edition of the E-Verify Connection newsletter which provides the latest announcements, enhancements, and information in the rapidly changing world of I-9 and E-Verify compliance.  If you read our blog on a regular basis, you’re most likely already aware of many of these updates, which include brief write-ups on the E-Verify RIDE program, minor enhancements to the web interface, and updates to I-9 Central and the M-274 Employer Handbook. If these concepts sound completely foreign or if you’ve been out of the I-9 compliance arena for a few months, read-on for a more in-depth look at “What’s Hot” in I-9 and E-Verify.

Earlier this summer, the USCIS launched 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. As previously reported, the goal behind RIDE is to improve E-Verify’s accuracy rate and reduce “false positives” in the system which occur when a person who is not authorized to work in the U.S. is confirmed by E-Verify as work authorized. Typically, false positives occur when an employee presents stolen, counterfeit, or “borrowed” identity documents which have been altered so that it appears they belong to the employee standing in front of you. Although the RIDE program does not actually display the driver’s license photo, the system will check to see if the data itself is valid and issue a TNC if it does not match DMV records.

Diagram Courtesy of United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)

Currently, Mississippi is the only state participating in the E-Verify RIDE program, and according to the newsletter, approximately 25,000 driver’s licenses have been validated thus far. The USCIS’s ultimate goal is to extend the RIDE program to all state departments of motor vehicles (DMVs) nationwide. Stay tuned for updates!

I-9 Central and the Updated Form I-9 Handbook for Employers (M-274)

In May, USCIS launched a new web portal dedicated to providing both employers and employees a one-stop shop for resources, tips and guidance to properly complete the Form I-9 and better understand the Form I-9 process. Aptly named, “I-9 Central,” the portal contains step-by-step instructions for completing the form, information on acceptable documents for establishing identity and employment authorization, sections about employer and employee rights and responsibilities, common mistakes to avoid when completing the form, guidance on how to correct errors, and answers to employers’ frequently asked questions. For a complete run-down on I-9 Central, check my previous blog post here.

For those that prefer the old-school I-9 guide, the USCIS still publishes the M-274 Employer Handbook which is available online here. The most recent edition (June 1, 2011) includes a few minor changes from the January 2011 version, including updated guidance on entering names, more document examples and some additional information on completing I-9s for TPS employees, asylees, refugees, and others.

Federal Contractor Cheat Sheet

It’s been almost 2 years now since the E-Verify Federal Contractor rule went into effect, and yet many are still baffled about when/if the rule applies to a particular organization. The most common question that I’ve heard over the years is how do I know if I should be receiving the E-Verify clause in my contract? This is then followed by 10 other questions relating to subcontractors, timelines, exceptions and other complex matters. Although it’s difficult to succinctly describe the FAR (Federal Acquisition Regulation) in 100 pages (let alone 1 page), theUSCIS has developed a handy document which sets out the basic rule and timelines for complying with this special E-Verify requirement.  If you’re already pretty familiar with FAR, you’ll notice that prime contracts must now exceed $150,000 (instead of $100,000) in order for the rule to apply. This change occurred late last year when the FAR Council raised the “simplified acquisition threshold” to account for inflationary pressures.

For more information on E-Verify FAR requirements, make sure you also check out the May 2011 Supplemental Guide which can be downloaded from the USCIS site here.

Have you self-checked yourself on E-Verify?

We’ve written a lot on Self-Check during the past year (see a few of those posts here), so I won’t go into a whole lot of detail about the program in today’s blog post. The latest scoop from USCIS is that the program has been working well in the 6 jurisdictions where it’s available (Arizona, Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, Virginia, and DC) without any significant burden on the system or SSA staff. On the cosmetic side, USCIS also just announced that Self-Check has been branded with its own trademark logo (which is probably a good sign that it’s here to stay). Expect Self-Check to appear in additional states soon.

Opportunities for I-9 and E-Verify Education

Lastly, the E-Verify Connection Newsletter lists several upcoming outreach events across the country, where DHS experts will discuss I-9, E-Verify, Federal contractors, and Self-Check. Make sure you check out the newsletter to see if DHS will be coming to a location near you soon.

Speaking of educational events, LawLogix is hosting a special “Back to the Basics” webinar series on I-9 compliance with an all-star cast of immigration attorney experts. Please check out this page and register today to secure your “seat” at the I-9 and E-Verify table.  Hope to see you online!