Employers flock to E-Verify

More than 52,000 firms use CIS' work eligibility system

The Homeland Security Department announced today that more than 52,000 employers have voluntarily adopted Citizenship and Immigration Services' E-Verify employment eligibility system.

About 1,000 new employers have joined the program each week since last October, CIS said in a press announcement. The online E-Verify system allows employers to verify the employment eligibility of newly hired workers.

E-Verify evolved from the Basic Pilot/Employment Eligibility Program that started in 1997 and went online three years ago. The earlier version generated "no match" messages when a new employee's Social Security information didn't square with Social Security Administration databases, but flaws in the system hindered its use as a reliable indicator as to whether an individual held the appropriate visa status for employment.

As CIS has refined E-Verify, the DHS agency has linked the system to additional federal databases and increased the reliability of the information it returns in response to queries. For example, last September CIS rolled out a photo screening system that allows employers to compare pictures on a new hire's employment authorization paperwork with some 15 million images in the department's databases.

Additional upgrades to the program have strengthened the customer-service functions available to employers who seek to resolve apparent conflicts in the employment eligibility information they have received. The Bush administration has requested $100 million to expand E-Verify operations. CIS is recruiting workers for the first regional verification center in Buffalo, N.Y., the agency said today.

While E-Verify participation is voluntary, several states require certain employers to use the CIS authorization verification system and program. "Arizona is a prominent example of such a state, with more than 18,000 employers currently participating in E-Verify compared to just 325 one year ago," CIS said in a press announcement.

While participation in the E-Verify program is voluntary, states and local governments increasingly have adopted penalties for companies that hire illegal workers, and companies face other forms of criminal and civil liability for flouting federal employment laws.

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