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E-Verify Basics

E-Verify is the product of law enforcement needs with technological advancements in today's digital age. The federal government designed the system to make hiring more efficient and ensure compliance with immigration laws. It is a tool meant for employers to check the work authorization of their employees quickly. The use of E-Verify also assists with the prevention of hiring unauthorized workers in the country as sanctioned by federal law.

Below is an overview of the E-Verify system, giving more insights into its primary purpose, function, and the process of how to use the system.

What Is E-Verify?

The E-Verify system is a fast, free online service accessible to employers with internet access. It helps employers confirm new employees' eligibility and authority to work in the United States. The Social Security Administration (SSA) and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) administer the system. The system compares the information given by an employee to the records available in the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the SSA.

When Is E-Verify Required?

For most employers participation in the E-Verify program is voluntary, but the program requires certain federal contractors, subcontractors, and projects with federal contracts to use it. Companies may have to follow e-verify requirements in some states when seeking a business license. Additionally, several states have begun mandating public and private employers to use E-Verify. For instance, most employers in Mississippi and Arizona are required to use the program.

How E-Verify Works

In the E-Verify process, employers create cases based on the information they take from the employee's Form I-9 (Employment Eligibility Verification). The E-Verify program then compares the information in the Form I-9 to the immigration records. These records are available with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and SSA.

To start your E-Verify enrollment, visit the dhs.gov/E-Verify website. Click the "Getting Started" button to see the user manual on completing the enrollment process. After registration, you must sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU gives the terms of an agreement between you as an employer and the DHS.

Employers can select which locations they want to register for E-Verify. For instance, if you are an employer, you can pick a designated hiring site to create an E-Verify case for new hires. You would only be asked to sign one MOU for this option. However, if you register a few hiring sites and each site performs its e-verification, each site needs its own MOU.

Note that a hiring site is a job board that simplifies the hiring process for human resource officers. These job boards allow recruiters and employers to advertise the role and efficiently serve potential candidates. A company may create new cases for one or all of its job boards.

Create a Case

Before an E-Verify user can create a case, the employer and employee must complete the Employment Eligibility Verification form (Form I-9). All U.S. employers must complete Form I-9 within three business days before employment. Employers use the information from Form I-9 as the foundation for an E-Verify case. They must create it within three business days after the employee starts working for pay.

E-Verify guides the employer through a series of questions. Thus, it is helpful to have some of the following documents and/or information ready:

  • Employee's citizenship
  • Date of Birth
  • Social Security Number
  • Lawful Permanent Resident Card (green card)
  • I-94 number for noncitizens
  • Employment Authorization Document (Form I-766)
  • Employee's Working Visa

After a few seconds, the employer receives a response either confirming their employee's eligibility or showing that the employee needs more action to complete the E-verify case.

In some cases, the document number and expiration date are also required. E-Verify also has a photo-matching feature, which occurs automatically for employees who present a passport, green card, or Form I-766.

If E-Verify can't initially match the information, it prompts the employer to review and correct it if necessary. Otherwise, the system will display an initial response within three to five seconds.

For more information about the enrollment process, the E-Verify website provides in-depth information.

Get Results

In most cases, E-Verify will instantly verify the employee's work authorization. If E-Verify returns an "Employment Authorized" response, the employer can continue to the last step in the verification process and close the case.

Sometimes, E-Verify cannot immediately confirm the employee's work authorization. There are also cases where the system requires the employer or the employee to take action. In these cases, the employer will see one of the following responses on the employee's verification results screen.

DHS Verification in Process

Sometimes, E-Verify cannot immediately verify employment authorization through its automated search of government records, so a manual search is necessary. E-Verify will return a "DHS Verification in Process" response in this case. The employer must check E-Verify until they update the employee's case. This often happens within 24 hours but might take up to three business days. 

When the system updates the employee's case, it will return either an "Employment Authorized" or "Tentative Nonconfirmation" response.

Tentative Nonconfirmation

If the employee information does not match government records, the employer will see a Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC) response. Visit the Tentative Nonconfirmation page at the E-Verify site if this happens.

To prevent unnecessary TNCs, the employer must carefully review the information for accuracy. If there are typographical errors or incorrect data, it is best to close the case and create a new one.

Close the Case

The user in E-Verify must close all cases when they receive a final verification result, regardless of the result. Closing cases is crucial because it helps the system maintain program usage and outcomes statistics.

E-Verify will ask if the employee is still working for the employer and then instruct the employer to choose why the case is being closed. Once the case is closed, the employer must either record the case verification number on the employee's Form I-9 or print the case details and keep it on file with the employee's Form I-9.

What To Do if E-Verify Is Unable To Confirm a Match

If the information provided by the employee matches that in the E-Verify database, the employer receives an "Employment Authorized" response. If the information doesn't match, E-Verify returns a "tentative non-confirmation" (TNC). This prompts the employee and the employer to take steps to resolve the matter. Some of the reasons for mismatch include inaccurate government records or insufficient documentation. This allows the DHS or the SSA to contact the employee for more information.

For more information about E-Verify, you can visit the E-Verify website. They provide a straightforward user manual and tutorials on navigating the system.

Seek Legal Help With E-Verify Requirements

E-verify plays a crucial role in ensuring compliance and fairness in the hiring process. With this web service, employers can simplify the hiring procedure for their human resource team. While the system is user-friendly, you may still face legal challenges and concerns. Questions may arise, such as "Do small businesses require E-Verify participation?" or, "Do I need an E-Verify employer agent?" In these cases, it is crucial to be informed.

Contact a business and commercial law attorney or immigration law attorney well-versed in business law to get started.

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