Washington, D.C. - According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report released this week, E-Verify, an electronic system employers may use to verify that new hires are authorized to work in the U.S., has made progress in improving accuracy and reducing document fraud. However, the system remains vulnerable to identity theft and employer fraud. According to GAO, in a December 2009 evaluation report, the Westat Corporation stated, “that E-Verify could not detect identity fraud in the majority of cases where unauthorized workers presented their employers with valid documents that were stolen or borrowed.”
E-Verify is administered by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA). Social Security Subcommittee Chairman Sam Johnson (R-TX) issued the following statement in reaction to the report:
“Especially in these times when so many Americans are searching for jobs, our nation needs stepped up enforcement and mandatory new hire employment verification. While progress has been made, GAO’s report again reminds us that the current paper-based I-9 and E-Verify systems remain at risk to document fraud, leaving workers vulnerable to identity theft, law-abiding employers with uncertainty and unscrupulous employers able to exploit the system.”
Chairman Johnson concluded, “I will work with my colleagues and key stakeholders to design a verification system that prevents illegal employment while safeguarding the jobs, identities and privacy of U.S. citizens. We need to get this right and we won’t unless the system includes credible ways to prevent identity theft. GAO’s report findings will help as we move forward.”
Below is background on the E-Verify system and recommendations from the GAO report:
- The Federal government requires all agencies and many of its contractors to process new hires through E-Verify, as do several states for both public and private sector jobs. E-Verify has processed 14.9 million queries from 222,000 participating employers.
- Employers enter data from a new hire’s Form I-9 which is then checked against databases at SSA and DHS. If there is a match, the system responds within seconds confirming the employee is authorized to work. This, however, does not mean the individual is truly eligible to work, as the candidate may have presented false or stolen documentation.
- U.S. citizens or non-citizens already authorized to work may be rejected because their immigration status or identifying information was not entered correctly or was not updated in a timely fashion. In that case, the individual is given a tentative non-confirmation reply and has eight federal working days to correct his or her data with one or both administering agencies. If they fail to do so, the employer receives a final notice that the individual is not authorized to work.
- In order to improve the E-Verify system, GAO recommends the following: 1) DHS increase its outreach to employees on how to correctly enter names to avoid mismatches and analyze the effectiveness of its tutorial and mastery tests for employers; 2) DHS coordinate between the heads of its agencies to correct data and develop procedures for their analysts to document their work authorization decisions; 3) SSA and DHS finalize their service level agreement and better assess the risks and costs of their portions of the E-Verify system; and 4) U.S. Citizen and Immigration Services allow individuals to access and correct personal data in DHS databases.