The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has published a notice in the Federal Register announcing that the new E-Verify Self Check feature will go into effect on March 18, 2011. As previously reported, the E-Verify Self-Check initiative will enable individuals to check their work authorization status prior to being hired and facilitate correction of errors in the federal databases which E-Verify utilizes. Self Check was developed primarily to address concerns with the current employer-focused E-Verify process, where employees have very limited ability to identify, access or correct information that may ultimately lead to a tentative nonconfirmation (TNC). Self Check promises to provide an easy method for individuals to check their own employment eligibility status outside of the normal E-Verify process, and thereby reduce the likelihood of TNCs.
How will Self-Check work?
E-Verify Self Check will involve two broad steps (with a few others underneath): (1) Identity authentication of the individual and (2) an E-Verify query to confirm the individual’s current work authorization status. Here’s how it will work:
Step 1 – Identity Check
After browsing to the website, the individual will be asked to enter some basic identifying information, including name, address of residence, date of birth, and Social Security number (optional). After the information is entered by the individual, it will be submitted to a 3rd party identity assurance service (IdP) to generate a minimum of 2 “knowledge-based” questions that only the individual would be able to answer. If the individual is able to answer the questions, his or her identity is “authenticated”, and a pass indicator is sent to E-Verify (proceed to step 2). If the individual is unable to answer the questions or if there is not enough commercial identity verification information from financial institutions, public records, and other service providers to generate the questions, the individual’s identity cannot be authenticated and he will not be able to continue through E-Verify Self Check.
Step 2 – E-Verify Query
Once the individual has successfully completed the identity proofing quiz, he or she will be able to run an employment eligibility query to determine work eligibility status. The name and date of birth provided in Step 1 will be pre-populated and cannot be changed (for security reasons). The individual will then be required to enter additional information based on the documentation the person would present to an employer for the Form I–9 process. The additional information collected from an individual depends on citizenship status and could include: Alien Number (if non-citizen); passport number; Form I-94 number; and/or lawful permanent resident card or work authorization document (EAD) number. Sound familiar? That’s because this is the same information that is collected for the Form I-9 process and the basic E-Verify 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.
Security and Privacy Concerns
When Self-Check was first announced, many organizations expressed concerns over the security and privacy of the individual’s personally identifiable information (PII) which is transmitted during the process. To address some of these concerns, the DHS system of records for Self-Check includes the following safeguards:
- The questions asked by the IdP and the answers provided by the individual are not provided to USCIS.
- If an individual fails the identity authentication portion of E-Verify Self Check and therefore is unable to proceed to an actual query in E-Verify, none of the information listed above is provided to or retained by E-Verify Self Check.
- Only the transaction number, the reason for failure, the date and time of the transaction, and error code are retained by the IdP to facilitate troubleshooting and system management.
It’s worth noting, however, that there are many other “routine” disclosures of this information which could be made outside of DHS.
While the launching of Self Check has the potential to reduce the number of TNCs, it still remains to be seen whether individuals will choose to use it, and if they can easily correct inaccuracies in the government databases. In addition, there is also a concern that some employers may be tempted to require their employees to use self-check prior to applying for a job. This would almost certainly constitute pre-screening, which would run afoul of the anti-discrimination provisions of E-Verify. Therefore, it’s important for employers to remember that E-Verify can only be used for new hires (or existing employees pursuant to FAR rules) once an offer has been extended and accepted and an I-9 form has been completed. As always, implementing training and clear policies are vital to ensure compliance with these changing rules.