by Don Slowik, Attorney and ImmigRanter at Slowik & Robinson, LLC
Anyone seeking employment in the United States should be aware of developments in the E-Verify program, as well as the new Self Check service. Administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), E-Verify is a program of the Department of Homeland Security that employers use to verify the eligibility status of new hires. The program has been around for years, but USCIS only recently created Self Check, a way for workers to check their own employment status.
Self Check is a free online service that anyone over 16 can use to confirm the accuracy of their government record. The service provides people access to the same information E-Verify uses for employers. As immigration lawyers, we encourage legal immigration. If E-Verify worked perfectly, then we would support the program, but it doesn’t. Unfortunately the database contains corrupt and incomplete data. This is why it’s so important for individuals to check their records and be proactive on keeping them up to date.
Right now states impose E-Verify themselves. A number of them require it for anyone doing business with a state agency, or for individuals who want to obtain a business license or incorporate in the state. As a result, there’s a patchwork of requirements around the country, and it’s driving employers who do business in multiple states nuts. Where E-Verify is mandated, the company must check the eligibility of every worker because it would be discrimination to single out only those workers who look or sound foreign. In some instances, inaccuracies in the database have prevented employers from being able to hire U.S. citizens and people who are legally eligible to work here.
The fact that few employers voluntarily participate in E-Verify proves the program causes more headaches than it’s worth. The database needs to be a lot cleaner and accurate. The proposal to implement E-Verify nationwide is huge. With the current composition in congress, it’s doubtful anything significant will be passed on immigration, but the possibility for future legislation is difficult to predict in an election year. In the mean time, workers should use the resources at their disposal.
The Self Check Toolkit gives convenient access to fact sheets, presentations and fliers to help spread the word, and much of the information is available in both English and Spanish. The actual Self Check is a simple four-step process. Once basic identifying information is entered, there’s a series of “quiz” questions similar to ones required to access a bank account online. This takes only a minute and protects privacy. The third step is to enter a social security number or other information from work authorization documents. At this point, you’ll receive nearly instant results. If the information entered doesn’t match government records, the system explains how to correct this.
There needs to be more open, direct dialog on immigration. We need to ask what legal immigration should be, and how we can change it to meet the needs of employers who want to be able to hire the best workers available. In the mean time, the Self Check program gives people the peace of mind that their government records are correct. Job hunters don’t have to pay the price for a flawed database.