E-Verify Users Report Positive Experiences, But Some Problems Remain, Survey Finds

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By Laura D. Francis

Oct. 16 — Most employers that use the E-Verify electronic employment eligibility verification system give it good marks, but concerns remain regarding continued improper use of the system, according to survey results released Oct. 15 by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

The report, “Findings of the E-Verify User Survey,” was prepared by Rockville, Md.-based research firm Westat for the USCIS. It compiled the survey responses of 2,819 E-Verify users that were collected online between March and June 2013.

More than 520,000 employers currently use the system, according to the report.

The report said most E-Verify users (92 percent) believe the system is effective in combating unauthorized employment, and most (89 percent) believe it is highly accurate in determining an employee's eligibility to work in the U.S. In addition, 97 percent of users believe the system is user-friendly, and 70 percent of those who are required to use E-Verify said they would be “likely” or “very likely” to continue using it if they no longer were required to do so.

Certain federal contractors and employers in states that have passed legislation mandating use of E-Verify are required to use the system. Legislation in both the House (H.R. 1772) and Senate (S. 744) would make the system mandatory for all employers nationwide.

Responses tended to vary by type of employer, the report said. Small employers, for example, were less likely to agree that E-Verify is effective and accurate. They also were more likely to say E-Verify usage resulted in the termination of existing employees and that it was sometimes impossible to submit case information by the required deadline.

‘Strong Upward Trend' in Usage

According to the report, there has been a “strong upward trend” in the number of employers using E-Verify and the number of individual cases entered into the system since its inception. There was a 25 percent increase in the number of cases submitted between January and March 2013 compared with cases submitted between July and September 2010, the report said. However, this is a smaller increase than the 150 percent increase between April-June 2008 and July-September 2010.

While the percentage of E-Verify users that were employment agencies or in industries that typically employ high numbers of undocumented immigrants remained about the same since 2010, there was an increase in the percentage of employers in other types of industries during this time, the report said.

The report said, however, that although most E-Verify users don't engage in discriminatory hiring practices, a few still do. For example, among employers that reported using E-Verify before employees start their first day of paid work, a small percentage reported that they used the system in this manner with respect to some, but not all, employees.

A small percentage (9 percent) of E-Verify users also reported using E-Verify selectively for workers they believed were unauthorized, and some (14 percent) reported using the system to verify the employment eligibility of existing employees.

Other employers, the report said, reported taking adverse actions against employees who received a tentative nonconfirmation in E-Verify, which indicates a mismatch between information provided by the employee and information in government records. E-Verify rules prohibit taking adverse action against an employee who receives a TNC.

Furthermore, the report said a few employers said their E-Verify use has made them less willing to hire individuals who appear foreign-born.

There was an increase in the percentage of employers that improperly used E-Verify before making a job offer, from 4 percent in 2008 to 9 percent in 2013, and a corresponding decrease, from 92 percent in 2008 to 86 percent in 2013, in the percentage of employers that completed the E-Verify process within the required three days.

The report said E-Verify users that were required to use the system were no more or no less likely than voluntary users to follow system rules. The exceptions were that voluntary users were more likely to report a data entry mistake causing a TNC, while mandatory E-Verify users were more likely to find it impossible to process cases within the required three days.

USCIS Agreed With Recommendations

The USCIS generally agreed with the report's recommendations, with two exceptions.

The first was a recommendation to create a pilot program allowing employers to use E-Verify on job applicants, which the USCIS said is prohibited by the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA). IIRIRA also requires that employers verify employees' identity and work eligibility within three business days of the date employment begins, the USCIS said in response to the recommendation that employers be given five days instead of three.

The report acknowledged that legislative changes would be necessary for these recommendations to go into effect.

Other recommendations included:

• strengthening and/or establishing formal relationships with professional employer organizations, federal agencies and state and local governments that mandate E-Verify use;

• providing “press” packages to disseminate accurate information to key professional organizations and state and local governments;

• improving E-Verify accuracy for work-authorized employees;

• increasing the types of documents that can be used with E-Verify's Photo Matching tool;

• instituting a formal appeal process for employers and employees who disagree with a final nonconfirmation;

• making free software available that allows for electronic completion of the I-9 employment eligibility verification form;

• conducting testing with E-Verify users to gain insights into ways the tutorial can be streamlined without losing critical content and concepts;

• identifying the specialized needs of different subgroups of E-Verify users and creating materials targeted to these subgroups;

• adding enhancements to E-Verify that would increase employer compliance;

• adapting and/or supplementing training materials and tutorials to allow for a better understanding of the E-Verify and I-9 requirements;

• monitoring employer usage through random desk audits;

• enhancing pop-up reminders for employers that receive TNCs to inform them about workers' rights, and conducting outreach to make employers more aware of the Self Check program; and

• conducting focus groups and/or surveys of employer subgroups to understand their unique needs, examining both E-Verify users and nonusers.

The report also said the USCIS should continue to monitor and evaluate E-Verify as major program changes are made. Recent and planned changes such as e-mail notifications to employees with TNCs, changes to the Form I-9, creation of the Self Check program, the addition of new platforms for accessing E-Verify and additional fraud protection measures could significantly impact the ability of E-Verify to meet its goals, according to the report.

User Recommendations

In addition to Westat's recommendations, survey respondents also submitted recommendations for improvements to E-Verify.

A majority of users supported allowing use of E-Verify on job applicants, making E-Verify mandatory for all employers, allowing use of E-Verify on existing employees and increasing the types of documents that can be used with Photo Matching. Nearly half supported a formal appeal process for FNCs, the report said.

According to the report, all of these are changes to the program that already have been suggested by advocates and policy makers.

Respondents also made various suggestions for improving E-Verify, such as simplifying the TNC process, sending e-mails when additional action on a case is needed, technical recommendations and providing additional guidance and training on specific issues.

To contact the reporter on this story: Laura D. Francis in Washington at lfrancis@bna.com

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Susan J. McGolrick at smcgolrick@bna.com

Text of the report is available at http://op.bna.com/dlrcases.nsf/r?Open=lfrs-9pxpmm.