E-Verify is a free web service that allows employers to confirm the legal eligibility of an individual who wants to work in the United States. E-Verify helps employers ensure that they are hiring eligible workers to avoid possible legal issues. The service is a part of USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services).
How E-Verify is used
E-Verify is used to verify employment eligibility for workers in the United States. It is also used to enforce employment-related compliance regulations among participating employers.
Employers can enroll in E-Verify for free by visiting the website e-verify.gov, creating an account and following the enrollment process laid out. E-Verify is a voluntary program, but some organizations may be required to use it if they engage in federal contracting, and if those federal contracts or subcontracts contain the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause. Some states' laws and local governments' laws also mandate the use of E-Verify under certain conditions, which vary by state.
To check employee eligibility, employers submit records from prospective employees. The identifying information submitted should come from the employee's I-9 form and must include the employee's Social Security Number (SSN) -- which is required to verify an employee using the platform -- among other identifying documents like the employee's passport and driver's license. That data is then compared with records available to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA). The employee is either confirmed eligible if the information matches or the system provides the necessary steps to address problems in eligibility if it does not.
If an error or information mismatch occurs in the verification process, and the employee is not deemed in eligible, the SSA or DHS will issue what's known as a Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC). TNCs will occur when the submitted information does not match government record. This may be because the employee's documents are invalid -- expired, changed, unreported, etc. -- or because the employer did not enter information correctly into E-Verify.
In the case of a TNC, E-Verify issues employers a Further Action Notice informing them that an employee could not be verified. The employer should notify the employee so that they can decide if they want to mitigate the issue. If the employee chooses to contest the TNC, they should:
- Notify their employer.
- Review submitted information for accuracy.
- Inform their employer if any information is incorrect.
- Visit an SSA field office or contact DHS within eight federal government workdays to open the TNC case.
- Wait for the case results, which E-Verify will notify the employer of when the SSA or DHS completes the case.
An employer cannot take adverse action against employees who choose to contest a TNC. This means employers cannot limit employment in any way, including:
- Terminating employment.
- Suspending employment.
- Withholding pay or training.
- Delaying a start date.
E-Verify is also used to identify compliance issues with participating employers. It does so by:
- Detecting employer misuse of the platform.
- Detecting and mitigating discriminatory practices.
- Giving guidance on the proper use of the platform.
- Notifying employers about case processing errors.
Users can log onto E-Verify and search through a database of employers that use the platform as well.
State laws and E-Verify
There is no law at the federal level that requires private employers to use E-Verify. While the program is voluntary in most U.S. states, it is mandatory in varying levels in 22 states. The state-by-state breakdown goes as follows:
Alabama: All employers in this state are required to use E-Verify. Additionally, all organizations awarded a contract from the state or a state-funded entity must provide documentation proving their use of E-Verify.
Arizona: All employers are required to use E-Verify and government contracts can only be issued to E-Verify users.
Colorado: Public contractors working with a state agencies or political subdivisions are required to use E-Verify or the Colorado Department of Labor and Employment program.
Florida: All state agencies, contractors and subcontractors must use E-Verify.
Georgia: Employers issued or renewing a state, county or municipal business license must be registered with E-Verify.
Idaho: All state agencies must use E-Verify.
Indiana: State and local governments and their contractors must use E-Verify.
Louisiana: All private contractors doing business with state or local public entities must use E-Verify. All private employers can either use E-Verify or retain copies of ID documents.
Michigan: Contractors of the Dept. of Human Services and Dept. of Transportation are required to use E-Verify.
Minnesota: State contractors with service contracts exceeding $50,000 need certification from both the vendor and subcontractor that E-Verify is used for new employees.
Mississippi: All employers, both public and private, are required to use E-Verify.
Missouri: All public employers and all organizations with state contracts above $5,000 must use E-Verify. E-Verify is also required for state agencies.
Nebraska: Businesses that qualify for state tax incentives, public contractors and public entities must use E-Verify for new employees.
North Carolina: All state agencies, universities and offices must use E-Verify for new employees. All private employers with more than 25 employees must also use E-Verify.
Oklahoma: Government agencies, both state and local, and private employers with government contracts must use E-Verify for new employees.
Pennsylvania: Public work state contractors must use E-Verify. Public work refers to "construction, reconstruction, demolition, alteration and/or repair work" with a contract over $25,000 that was at least partially paid for by a public body.
South Carolina: All employers are required to use E-Verify. Employees may not be authorized using a state identification card or driver's license. Employers must verify the legal status of employees within three business days of hiring.
Tennessee: All employers must use E-Verify for new employees, or request the new employee's state driver's license or photo ID card.
Texas: All state agencies must use E-Verify.
Utah: Private employers with 15 or more employees must use E-Verify for new employees. Public entities and public contractors are required to use E-Verify or a similar platform for employee verification.
Virginia: State agencies must use E-Verify. State contractors with over 50 employees for the 12 months prior to entering a contract worth over $50,000 must also use E-Verify.
West Virginia: Public employers and contractors must use E-Verify.
History of E-Verify
E-Verify was created after the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA). It was originally part of the Basic Pilot Program, which was an effort to keep undocumented immigrants from getting jobs. In 2007, the Basic Pilot Program was renamed E-Verify. E-Verify's photo matching capability was also added that year, which marked the first step in incorporating biometric data into the site. In 2008, USCIS and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) signed an agreement to share information between the two agencies.
As of 2017, over 745,000 employers are enrolled with E-Verify, according to its website.
Impact of E-Verify
There have been several criticisms of E-Verify, especially in the early 2010s, when many state laws surrounding the platform were passed. Members of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) have expressed concerns that E-Verify may eventually grow into a national ID system and make employers responsible for policing ID issues. The American Farm Bureau Federation also opposes E-Verify and expressed concern that it would hurt labor-intensive agriculture, damaging the American Farm industry and many farmers' livelihoods.
Several studies have been conducted on E-Verify and its impact on labor, including:
- "The impact of E-Verify mandates on labor market outcomes." Published in the Southern Economic Journal in 2015, this study found that E-Verify reduced the average earnings of undocumented immigrants, improved labor market outcomes for male Mexican immigrants and American-born Hispanic men, and had no effect on American-born, non-Hispanic whites.
- "Do state work eligibility verification laws reduce unauthorized immigration?" Published in the Journal of Migration in 2016, this study found that the platform reduces the number of less-educated, prime-age immigrants from Mexico and Central America -- those who are likely to be unauthorized.
- "E-Verify Let 12 Million Illegal Hires Happen Since 2006 -- 80% of Attempts." Published in 2019 by the Cato Institute, this study found that E-Verify was once proficient at detecting immigrants living in the U.S. without legal permission, and that this is no longer true. It estimated that in 2018, the service only spotted roughly 15 percent of immigrant workers without legal permission to live in the U.S.