Department of Homeland Security: Observations on the E-Verify Experience In Arizona & Recommended Customer Service Enhancements

Executive Summary

E-Verify is an Internet-based program that permits registered employers to verify a new hire’s legal ability to work in the United States. This report explores how E-Verify has been received by some public and private sector employers who have been required to use it.

E-Verify is currently offered to employers on a voluntary basis nationwide. However, some states, including Arizona, have enacted legislation mandating the use of E-Verify with varying trigger requirements. In Arizona, all private and public sector employers are required to use E-Verify regardless of the number of workers they employ.

The Office of the Citizenship and Immigration Services Ombudsman (Ombudsman) interviewed a variety of employers in Arizona to gain insights into how E-Verify is working in a universal, mandatory-use environment, and to determine how E-Verify might perform if nationally mandated by immigration reform legislation.

The Ombudsman determined from this study that mid-sized and large employers appear relatively satisfied with the speed and accuracy of E-Verify. Smaller employers, however, expressed varying levels of concern with user-friendliness. Also, confusion remains about the exact timing, and the specific processes, that must be followed by employers and employees after E-Verify returns a Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC) determination. Apart from these operational observations, the Ombudsman found that USCIS outreach and education efforts have been well received by system users, but may not be reaching smaller sized employers that represent 50 percent of the existing private U.S. payroll.

The Ombudsman also notes that significant E-Verify system enhancements were put into place in May 2008 which eliminated the issuance of TNC determinations on newly naturalized U.S. citizens and newly arrived immigrants. Another important system enhancement was implemented by the Social Security Administration (SSA) on October 1, 2008 to simplify the verification and correction process when TNCs do occur.

Based on observations and analysis of E-Verify, the Ombudsman recommends that USCIS:

1. Simplify the language used in all E-Verify instructions and supporting documentation.
2. Make all registration and operational documents publicly available on-line for review by prospective E-Verify end-users and employees.
3. Ensure its education and outreach efforts reach small business communities.
4. Develop and add a tickler/calendar system into E-Verify capable of issuing timely system prompts to employers to advise them of their next appropriate course of action for each specific open and unresolved TNC.
5. Announce as a stated goal an intention to replace the current Form I-9 process for employers that voluntarily use E-Verify.

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