The United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) announced that the new E-Verify Self Check feature will be available for use starting on March 18, 2011. This tool will allow individuals to submit their personal information and check their work authorization status in the government’s electronic database prior to being hired. As the system currently exists, only employers are permitted to check the work authorization status of employees, and may only submit the status check after the employee has been officially hired. When the database is unable to confirm legal work authorization, both the employer and employee are thrown into a difficult predicament of what to do next to address the errors in the database or other reasons that may be causing the non-confirmation. The Self-Check feature should eliminate many of these problems as they could be addressed by individuals prior to even applying for work.

Step One: Identify Confirmation E-Verify Self Check will involve several steps: First the applicant will be asked to provide his or her basic identifying information. Second, this information will be submitted electronically and instantaneously to a third party identity assurance service. This service will return several “knowledge-based” questions that only the applicant would be able to answer. Third, the applicant must answer the questions provided. If the applicant answers correctly, his or her identity is “authenticated”, and the E-Verify system is notified.

Step Two: E-Verify Database Check Then the applicant will then be returned to the E-Verify Self Check site and will be able to initiate the E-Verify Self-Check inquiry by entering additional information, including passport number, Form I-94 number, Alien number, or document numbers from his or her green card or work authorization card. Within 3 seconds, E-Verify will provide the applicant with one of the following answers: (1) Work Authorization Confirmed; (2) Possible mismatch with SSA Information or (3) Possible mismatch with Immigration Information. If the applicant receives the SSA or Immigration mismatch, E-Verify Self Check will ask the individual whether he or she would like to resolve the mismatch or not. If the applicant chooses no, E-Verify will close the case. If the individual chooses yes, a form will be generated that contains the individual’s first and last name, the date and time of the E-Verify query, the E-Verify case number, and detailed instructions on how to resolve the mismatch.

Employers Beware: No Pre Screening As with any new USCIS program there are bound to be technological glitches in the first few months. But two other concerns also come immediately to mind. Once the new Self-Check tool is available, the temptation will be great for employers to require potential hires to use the Self-Check during the hiring process. This practice will be considered to be pre-screening and is a clear violation of the E –Verify Memorandum of Understanding every employer must sign prior to participating. Employers should be wary of this temptation, as it will most likely be innocently reported directly to E-Verify officials when potential hires with tentative-non-confirmations contact the verification unit to resolve their database issues.

Only Time and Experience Will Tell: The second concern is with the identity check phase of the process. If the individual does not have sufficient public information available such as through credit reporting agencies and the like, the identity check cannot take place and the individual cannot use the Self-Check tool. It is unfortunate that the individuals who would be the most likely to benefit from the Self-Check tool, new legal immigrants and non-immigrant workers are also the most likely not to have the kind of public information required to be able to verify their identity in the first step of the process. Only time and experience will tell whether the Self-Check tool will create unnecessary hurdles for employers and job seekers or help streamline the post-hire E-Verify process.