E-Verify: the Good, the Bad, and the Unresolved

The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has recently released an independent report of the E-Verify system, highlighting the successes, failures, and remaining challenges that face employers face today.

The Good

USCIS reduced the Tentative Nonconfirmations (TNCs or mismatches) from 8% between June 2004 and March 2007 to almost 2.6% in fiscal year 2009. TNCs result when the information from an employee’s Form I-9 does not match government records and E-Verify indicates the case may require additional action.

Additionally, USCIS data indicates that about 97.4% of almost 8.2 million newly hired employees were immediately confirmed as work authorized by E-Verify during fiscal year 2009, compared to 92% during June 2004 through March 2007.

Conversely, about 2.6% of newly hired employees, or over 211,000, received either a Social Security Administration or USCIS TNC, including about 0.3% who were determined to be work eligible after they contested a TNC, and about 2.3% who received a Final Nonconfirmation (FNC) because their employment eligibility status remained unresolved.

The Bad

Despite the reduction of TNCs overall, it appears that erroneous information is still a way of life. Employee information, like the E-Verify system itself, is constantly being updated and changed. Also, it is not uncommon to have misspellings or other name variations for first or last names. In these instances, TNCs may result because the employer is uncertain how exactly to enter the name into the system. According to USCIS, of the TNCs resulting from name mismatches in fiscal year 2009, approximately 76% were for citizens and 24% were for noncitizens. USCIS has included information on its website to help employers enter various name combinations to reduce some of these TNCs.

The Unresolved

Over the past two years, USCIS has more than doubled the number of monitoring and compliance staff overseeing employers’ use of E-Verify. Apparently, however, the staff still lacks the appropriate technology to discern instances of suspected employer misuse easily. According to senior E-Verify program officials, such capabilities will be addressed by fiscal year 2012, through an estimated $6 million advanced data system. USCIS expects this system, known as the Data Analysis System, to automate about 80% of the Monitoring and Compliance Branch’s workload.

It looks like E-Verify will be with us for the foreseeable future. The fiscal year 2010 DHS Appropriations Act reauthorized the E-Verify program through September 30, 2012, and provided USCIS with $137 million for program operations. Employers must prepare themselves by implementing appropriate policies, procedures, and technology to address the potential pitfalls of an erroneous TNC or FNC, as well as other challenges, such as identity theft and discrimination.