Musings on the E-Verify Driver’s License Pilot Webinar: This is getting complicated

[Editor’s Note: today’s blog is courtesy of Dawn Lurie and Kevin Lashus] In the next several weeks , USCIS Verification will be rolling out an additional upgrade for participants in the E-Verify program.  This follows the U.S. Passport Phototool safeguard recently added.]

Essentially, participating states (and other sovereigns that have the authority to issue identity documents and driver’s licenses) will provide the federal government access to their motor vehicle identification databases.  As a result, employers will be able to submit the driver’s license number for comparison with the number in the issuing authorities’ records.  Unfortunately, State ID card information is not included in this pilot program.  Another disappointment surrounded the reference to an ID photo matching tool for identity documents  –Verification confirmed it was not including this as an option with the new roll-out.  This is unfortunate because E-Verify has made incredible strides at improving their system over the past several years, but without these photo tools and/or other safeguards, identity theft will continue to plague the E-Verify program. During the webinar, three potential options for the user interface were discussed, represented by three separate screen designs.  To be clear, USCIS Verification plans to change how employers enter information into the E-Verify program—the purpose of the webinar was to gauge the public’s opinion of the options for the proposed change.  Conducted in the spirit of cooperation, this was clearly in line with the promises made by Director Mayorkas for improved and transparent service from an increasingly user-friendly USCIS.

High-level overview of the 3 avenues USCIS is considering

img1

In each option, the employer will enter preliminary Form I-9 information noting what citizenship status the employee claimed in Section 1.

Option 1:  Upon selection of citizenship status, the employer will be prompted to identify the documents presented in Section 2 of the I-9 form: first, whether a List A document or whether a List B and C document were presented. The system then requires you to select the specific List A or List B and C document (represented on separate pages) by presenting a generic listing mirroring the Form I-9 and grouping together some of the acceptable documents including US and Canadian Drivers licenses. Perhaps the designers were in need of space?

img2

The user is then prompted to add-in the specific information on the documents, generally mirroring all of the information you would be required to record on the actual Form I-9, including the DL type, issuing authority and DL number (assuming a Driver’s license is selected as the List B document).

img3

Option 2:  Upon selection of citizenship status, the employer will be prompted to identify the documents presented in Section 2 of the I-9 form: first, whether a List A document was presented (and if so, which one etc.); or which combination of List B and C documents were presented. The difference between Option 1 and Option 2, is that here the employer can choose the specific List B and C documents at the same time, on the same screen. The next data entry screen captures the identity information as noted above.

img4

Option 3:  Upon selection of citizenship status, the employer will be prompted to identify the Identity document presented in Section 2 of the Form I-9 from a combination of specific List A and B documents.

img5

We would be remiss without mentioning the need for clarification and consistency on whether the E-Verify screens should display all of the actual allowable document choices.  Unfortunately, there did not seem to be a clear fix ingrained within the Pilot.  The lists are still static and do not appear to include the lesser utilized, yet clearly acceptable documents.   Fair enough, USCIS has previously noted that a fix is a about a year off for E-Verify, but that should not stop USCIS Verification from providing interim guidance.  It is possible that they are already working on something as we noticed an interesting prompt in Option 3 to “Other List A or List B Documents”, which was not defined at the time of the Webinar.  Remember, these pesky identification and/or work verification documents do not appear on the List of Acceptable Documents located on the back of the Form I-9, but nonetheless, still establish identity and work authorization. They include certain receipts and temporary work authorization documents.  You can find them in the regulations and in the M-274 but that requires patience and time. How many busy employers have that?  And yes, this is a source of great frustration and perhaps a topic for another blog posting.

The webinar was short and focused.  The screen shots were very limited and did not take us through the entire E-Verify process so we were left with questions on how the other screens would look and whether the flow would depend on what specific options were selected or would be static.

Fundamentally, the design is not really the issue, but the number of screens involved in the process, the ease for the employer and the overall timing.  Essentially, Option 1 represents the truest electronic representation of the traditional I-9 process; whereas, Option 3 represents an alternative process entirely. None of the options seemed particularly onerous or problematic.

Ultimately, the Verification folks indicated that they were interested in Option 3’s “benefit [by] saving additional screens” from the user; hopefully they will also assess the fallout from utilizing an option so divergent from the traditional Form I-9.   And while we are at it, there are lots of other aspects of E-Verify we would like to give feedback on and have “options” presented to us for polling and input.

It appeared that of the 100 participants invited, only 67 or so participated in the polling questions (loosely translated for clarity below):

Question 1: do you prefer E-Verify to look more like the I-9 (more screens to click through) OR less like the I-9 (fewer screens to click through)?

Question 2: which workflow option(1, 2, or 3) do you prefer?

Question 3: do you have a comment on any of the options?

Question 4: should E-Verify grey-out documents that don’t apply (dynamic document lists)?

Question 5: should E-Verify offer additional sessions during the design stages?

Question 6: would you be interested in beta testing some options?

For those of you who were unable to attend the webinar, but would still like to provide feedback, you can send an email to E-Verify@dhs.gov with “E-Verify Driver’s License Pilot” in the subject line. According to the presenter, they will be making their design choice within the next few weeks.

The USCIS will need to consider the broader aspects of adding any capability to the E-Verify system.  Much of the direction they ultimately choose will depend on whether this administration plans to combine E-Verify with the I-9 process, providing employers with the ability to complete the form electronically online.  And that friends, is something employers will need to seriously consider the benefits of before signing on to such a system.  Speaking of benefits, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) could surely be a recipient of such benefits.  Food for thought.

We’ll give it to them—this is public engagement in its truest form.  Our concern is that they ultimately move to one extreme or the other.  Electing to move the E-Verify process entirely away from the traditional I-9 will be just as problematic as moving both processes too close together in the form of an “Electronic E-Verify I-9.”

In the end, one of us voted for Option 1 and the other for Option 2. So what do we know?