E-Verify is now mandatory for all federal contractors. Pursuant to the executive order issued yesterday, federal contractors must use the E-Verify program to confirm the work eligibility of all employees currently working on a government contract, as well as all newly hired employees whether they are working on a government contract project or not. The Executive Branch says that the E-Verify system will be able to handle this increasing demand.
But the new executive order isn’t the only new wrinkle in this quickly changing landscape. Several states (including Arizona, Mississippi, Idaho, Rhode Island, Minnesota and Oklahoma), have passed laws mandating use of the E-Verify system by some or all employer. And there is legislation now pending in Congress that would require all U.S. employers to use the system to verify the employment eligibility of their employees.
The Government Accountability Office (GAO), which is the audit, evaluation and investigation arm of Congress, has just published a report, “Employment Verification: Challenges Exist in Implementing a Mandatory Electronic Employment Verification System” on the issues presented by mandatory universal use of E-Verify. The report includes a very good overview of how E-Verify works and a helpful flow chart showing each step of the process.
The GAO says that a universal mandatory e-verification will present fiscal and practical challenges. The GAO points out that although 61,000 employers have registered to use E-Verify, only about half are actively using the system, and that there are approximately 7.4 million employers in the U.S. now. The U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) estimates that mandatory E-Verify would result in about 63 million queries per year about newly hired employees. Both the Social Security Administration and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service would have to buy more servers and hire more employees if E-Verify were mandated for all newly hired employees.
Mandatory E-Verify in its current form will not be a complete solution to the unauthorized immigration problem. It can help employers detect the use of fraudulent documents such as fake Social Security number cards, but it does not prevent use of genuine, but stolen, documents. My clients have reported an increase in incidents of apparent identity theft, which I think is probably an unintended consequence of the increased use of E-Verify.