The Department of Homeland Security’s continued commitment to E-Verify is apparent from the new E-Verify re-design, which will be launching on Sunday, June 12, 2010.
The new re-design is a huge improvement in terms of the look and feel of the E-Verify program, giving users enhanced security, accuracy and efficiency. The USCIS team that developed the re-design focused on user needs identified through surveys and other feedback. The goal appeared to be simple: how can we make E-Verify a better, more intuitive and usable product for human resource managers?
If the preview information and government-sponsored webinars are any indication, USCIS has made significant progress. The new E-Verify design gives employers new tools, such as case alerts notifying managers that there are new updates about a case and reminders to re-verify expiring work authorization documents. Failing to close a case is one of the most common E-Verify errors, and the alerts should help remind managers to do that in a timely fashion.
The tickler for re-verification, contained in the E-Verify system, should help employers manage the re-verification process through a website that they are already using on a regular basis. The re-design also simplifies the process for E-Verify users by replacing many of the clunky, bureaucratic definitions contained on the site with plain English alternatives. As the USCIS website states, “you shouldn’t need a glossary” to conduct employment verification.
Unfortunately, the new system still does not address the most pressing need of many employers – an ability to address prevalent identity theft and false claims of U.S. citizenship. USCIS has made some substantial progress in this area, but employers should not and cannot rely on E-Verify as truly doing comprehensive “employment verification.” As such, it is critical that employers use the system in coordination with other tools to ensure unauthorized workers are not evading detection.
Employers should also be aware that the re-design gives the government additional information about how the employer manages its hiring process. For example, the re-design requires human resource managers to provide additional details about why a case is closed. In the old version, if an employee quit or was fired during the E-Verify process (for legitimate, non-E-Verify reasons), the human resource manager would indicate that the employee “self-terminated.” There was no place for the human resource manager to indicate that the employee was terminated by the company for other reasons.
Now, the E-Verify system will require the human resource manager to specifically indicate whether the employee voluntarily quit or whether the employer fired the employee for reasons unrelated to the E-Verify process. Given that USCIS is now sharing information from E-Verify with other government agencies, including the Office of Special Counsel at the Department of Justice and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the new detailed responses could, in certain circumstances, trigger an investigation by the government into the company.
For example, take an employer who appeared to be terminating a statistically high number of employees during the E-Verify process. You can imagine a scenario where this irregularity is referred to the Office of Special Counsel to ensure that the employer is not firing individuals for E-Verify tentative non-confirmations or other impermissible reasons. Even if the firings are legitimate (failed drug tests, etc.), the employer is likely to have to spend additional time and attorney resources responding to the investigation that was generated by their own information submitted to E-Verify.
Finally, even with the new tools, employers must guard against over-reliance on the automated assistance. For example, the re-design’s reminder system for documents that need to be re-verified should help human resource managers remember to conduct re-verification for expiring work authorization documents. However, the E-Verify system does not and cannot tell whether a human resource manager really re-verified the employee or whether they simply indicated on the alert that they did so. It is certainly possible for personnel to close or ignore the alerts out of carelessness, which could potentially cause significant harm for the company if ICE conducts an audit of the I-9s. In addition, corporate administrators overseeing the E-Verify process for a company cannot view all the re-verification alerts or track the system at this point.
Despite these shortcomings, overall the new re-design should be a welcome improvement for employers. The enhanced tools and information also demonstrate the broader DHS commitment to enhance the E-Verify system. This commitment is a positive sign that the government is serious about helping employers successfully determine employment verification.
For those interested in learning more about the redesign and new requirements, E-Verify will host an online webinar on Thursday, June 10, at 2:00 PM EDT.