CIS plans to use photo IDs to verify worker eligibility

Privacy office reports success with Photo Screening Tool pilot

Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS), the federal immigration benefits agency, is assembling resources to progressively roll out a photo verification tool employers can use to verify new hires' workforce eligibility.

Computer Sciences Corp. will continue its existing information technology work in support of the Homeland Security Department agency under a newly issued
$53 million task order.

The contract calls for CSC to continue its work on the Verification Information System, which helps CIS match individuals to their immigration status.

The extended contract also will position CSC as a key contractor supporting the Real ID Act, a law that effectively requires states to begin issuing biometric driver's licenses that can serve as proof of legal residence or citizenship. The act also will cover nondriver's ID cards issued by motor vehicle departments.

Verification tools

Part of CSC's work will support expansion of CIS' back-end immigration tools, including the E-Verify system. A rapidly increasing number of companies have begun using E-Verify to ensure their new hires are eligible for employment. E-Verify formerly was known as the Basic Pilot Program.

Federal and state agencies also use E-Verify to operate the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements system, another CIS tool, to verify eligibility for government programs such as housing subsidies.

The department has been testing a photo verification capability for E-Verify during the past few months, DHS officials said.

A department Privacy Impact Assessment of the Photo Screening Tool issued last month said the pilot turned out well.

'The Photo Screening Tool serves'to help verify an employee's identity, and to prevent identity theft,' the department's privacy analysis said.

The crux of the verification tool is a link to the Social Security Administration and to other parts of CIS that have records of employment eligibility. If those initial checks don't confirm employment eligibility, the employer receives a Tentative Nonconfirmation (TNC) via E-Verify.

The prospective worker and the employer must find the reason for the TNC.
The department said it has taken steps to ensure that citizenship records passing among the various databases that provide information through E-Verify will be properly secured.

For example, the Privacy Impact Assessment states that data transfers will use Secure File Transfer Protocol via Secure Shell to encrypt software in some cases. In other circumstances, where software encryption is not possible, system designers plan to provide virtual private network sessions.

Immigration advocacy groups have argued that mistakes in
the databases behind VIS and
E-Verify likely will lead to thousands of eligible workers being denied employment or improperly discharged.

Services rendererd

Under terms of the award, CSC will supply the DHS division and its VIS arm with help desk support, systems training and security, strategic business system planning, business intelligence analysis, and performance testing and measurement services.

The department's Form 300 justification for the expansion of VIS, submitted to the Office of Management and Budget, said the verification office faces a quickly growing work load: 'VIS has been in full operation for 3 years and handles over 1 million queries a month. The expansion of the program is contingent on appropriated funding, and will require VIS to undergo major enhancements.'
CSC received the task order under its Enterprise Acquisition Gateway for Leading Edge Solutions contract to carry out the expanded support to the immigration benefits agency.

Corporations that hold EAGLE contracts are eligible to compete for task orders for the provision of systems engineering, software support and related services as specified in a series of capability categories.

About the Authors

David Hubler is the former print managing editor for GCN and senior editor for Washington Technology. He is freelance writer living in Annandale, Va.

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