One of the most common complaints in immigration reform is that it is impossible to control unauthorized employment. On one hand, some employers hire workers whom they know are not authorized to work in the United States. On the other hand, some aliens obtain fraudulent documents to present to employers so that the employer will believe that the person is eligible to work. Since enforcement of workplace immigration rules has escalated over the past few years, with some employer-violators actually being sentenced to jail, it is more important than ever for employers to ensure that they are hiring only those workers who are truly eligible to work in the United States. Over the past few years, the US government has been developing a system called E-Verify, to enable employers to check the eligibility of a particuar job applicant.

One of the major complaints of E-Verify opponents, however, is that the system sometimes returns a false negative for someone who actually is eligible to work, such as a US citizen, green card holder, or authorized non-immigrant worker. A debate has been raging between pro-enforcment and anti-enforcement groups as to whether the ability to control unauthorized employment trumps a person’s right to engage in the job hunting process without being snagged in E-Verify’s false positive pool.

In an effort to reduce the number of false positives returned for those who are actually eligible to work in the US, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) launched the E-Verify Self Check System today. The purpose of the system is to allow all workers and prospecitve workers in the United States to learn ahead of time what their E-Verify record will show so that they can clear up any discrepancies or inconsistencies before running into problems with a prospective employer.

The E-verify Self Check is the first online employment eligibility program offered directly to workers and job hunters. The free service is completely voluntary and was developed during a collaboration between DHS and the Social Security Administration (SSA). As of now, only those who maintain an address and are physically located in Arizona, Idaho, Colorado, Mississippi, Virginia or Washington DC are eligible to use E-Verify Self Check. Additional locations will be rolled out over the next few months.

E-verify Self Check Steps

The E-verify Self Check system can be accessed here. There are four steps to using the E-verify Self Check system. First, the user enters his or her identifying information, such as name, date of birth and address. They then confirm their identity by answering demographic or financial questions generated by a third-party identity assurance service. The user then enters their social security number or, if applicable, alien identification number.  Once this information is gathered, the E-verify system compares the information against Social Security and DHS records and declares whether the person is legally eligible to work in the United States.

This system is similiar to the system an employer will use to check a job prospect’s employment eligibility. However, employers are reminded that they cannot require a prospective employee to run Self Check instead of doing its own employer E-verify check. Employers are also not permitted to use results of an E-verify Self-Check when filling out an employee’s I-9 form.

If the E-verify system indicates that a person is not eligible to work in the US, he or she will be instructed on how to resolve any data mismatches with the Social Security Administration or DHS. DHS assures users of E-verify Self Check that their personal data is purged from the system as soon as the session is complete. In addition, those who lack a sufficient amount of data on their credit report may not be able to use the Self Check system as it relies on credit history to verify a user’s identity.

Note: those who use the E-verify Self Check system will see an inquiry on their credit report. This will NOT affect their credit score.