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USCIS Announces Nationwide Expansion of E-Verify Self Check Program

Have you ever wondered whether the US government thinks you’re authorized to work in the United States? Sure, you may have your own documentation which proves this point, but what about those big government databases filled with social security numbers, dates of birth, and other biographic information? If you had the opportunity to ask these collective systems (a modern day HAL 9000 if you will), would you want to know? And what could you do with that information?

Well, wonder no more. Today, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) announced that the E-Verify Self Check Service is now available in all 50 states, Washington, D.C., Guam, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands and the Commonwealth of Northern Mariana Islands. Aspreviously discussed, E-Verify Self Check enables individuals to check their work authorization status prior to being hired in order to correct database errors and other inconsistencies which may exist in government records. Self Check was launched in March 2011 and has been implemented in 3 stages (5 states plus the District of Columbia in March 2011, 16 additional states in August 2011, and nationwide as of February 9, 2012).

But why use Self Check?

Today, I watched a Self Check press conference at the USCIS’ agency office in Orlando, Florida, where USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas announced that approximately 67,000 people have used Self Check thus far, and they anticipate those numbers to go up. See the USCIS press release herefor more quotes from Director Mayorkas. All of this though begs the question – why are all these people using Self Check? Do I really need to know my employment eligibility status in the eyes of the government? This same question was echoed rather succinctly by a conference attendee today in Florida – “I am a natural born citizen, why would I want to use Self Check?”

As the moderators explained, Self Check was designed for all job seekers in the U.S. (regardless of whether they are a citizen or noncitizen) to provide a little bit of transparency into E-Verify records. As employers’ use of E-Verify continues to expand around the country (1 million sites and counting), many new hires are being run through the system in order to determine whether they are authorized to work in the U.S. And while E-Verify’s accuracy has improved over the years, the fact remains that many work-authorized individuals receive an initial mismatch (due largely to name changes which have not been recorded or updated) – requiring them to expend time and effort to fix their record (with SSA or DHS). When used properly, Self Check enables individuals to know their status ahead of time (before the hiring process), so they can fix the problem at their own leisure.

How does Self-Check Work?

Source: USCIS

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. 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. For example, individuals may see questions such as:

  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. In which of the following counties have you lived?
  4. Which of the following is either your current or your previous telephone number?

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 Self Check query. 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.

If the individual receives the SSA or Immigration mismatch, E-Verify Self Check will prompt the individual whether he or she would like to resolve the mismatch or not. If the individual chooses not to resolve the mismatch, E-Verify will close the case. If the individual chooses to resolve an SSA mismatch, a form will be generated that contains the individual’s first and last name, the date and time of the E-Verify query, the E-Verify case number, and detailed instructions on how to resolve the mismatch. If the individual decides to resolve an Immigration Information mismatch, E-Verify Self Check provides instructions to contact E-Verify Customer Contact Office (CCO) to assist in the correction of immigration records 72 hours after the initial query to speak with a status verification representative. If the representative is unable to correct the record, the individual will be advised of actions necessary to correct the error.

What’s the difference between Self Check and E-Verify?

Source: USCIS

In a nutshell, they are the same databases but with different front-ends and purposes. E-Verify is used by some employers (either voluntarily or as required by federal/state rules) to verify the employment eligibility of new hires. Self Check is for individuals only to verify their own status outside of the hiring context. While it may provide an opportunity for correction (or peace of mind), Self Check does not serve as proof of work authorization (in other words, you can’t take your Self Check results to an employer and say – look here, I’m verified). E-Verify employers must still verify the employment eligibility of new hires using the Form I-9 and run new hires through E-Verify. Click on the chart to the right for a comparison.

What Else is New with Self Check?

A lot actually! As the USCIS reps explained during today’s event, they have completely redesigned the landing page on the USCIS web site to provide a lot more information for both individuals and employers. The landing page itself even has its own OMB (Paperwork Reduction Act) number and expiration date. Of particular note is the Self Check toolkit which provides press materials, blogs, flyers, brochures, and an interactive presentation (in case you haven’t seen the system yourself). USCIS also announced that they will be holding a special Spanish-language only event on March 1stto discuss the Self Check program (which is also available in Spanish as well.)

As an Employer, should I have concerns about Self Check now that it’s nationwide?   

As with all things E-Verify related, employers must develop appropriate policies and procedures (in consultation with counsel) to prevent misuse of the system. For example, some employers may be tempted to require their job applicants to use Self Check in order to streamline the E-Verify process and avoid tentative nonconfirmations. Resist the temptation! USCIS and OSC have both made it abundantly clear that employers may not require a job applicant to use Self Check – such a practice would likely constitute “pre-screening” which is prohibited under the anti-discrimination provision of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Additionally, employers may not require an employee, once hired, to use Self Check either. For a full list of Employer Do’s and Don’ts related to Self Check, check out this page here.

Human Resources Today