Office of the Inspector General Tells USCIS E-Verify Needs Improvement

 In August, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) submitted a report to the Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) concerning the department’s Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification Process. This report found numerous flaws with the reliability of the system and made recommendations for improvement. 

The report titled “USCIS Needs to Improve Its Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification Process” found numerous deficiencies in the USCIS’s E-Verify system, which makes it incapable of dependably confirming the identity of non-citizens as well as their work authorization. In fact, according to the report, on a minimum of 800,000 occasions, the flaws with the system have resulted in failing to accurately judge the identity and eligibility to work of individuals.

The USCIS is entrusted with the responsibility to prevent unlawful employment and illegal immigration. In order to perform this mission, the USCIS maintains the E-Verify system, which determines whether newly hired workers are legally authorized to work in the United States. 

This system was permitted by Congress back in 1996 in order to prevent undocumented individuals from working within the US. E-Verify uses the information submitted from newly hired employees and electronically compares them to records contained in databases of federal agencies. Every employer is required to submit I-9 forms for every new hire they make, whether they are a U.S. citizen or not, which in 2019 resulted in E-Verify processing more than 39 million individuals.

However, this report has found that the E-Verify system holds a number of flaws that may allow significant fraud. This includes limited ability to identify, issuing decisions before verifying driver’s license data, and depending on employer confirmation of identities manually instead of using an automated process. Further, the report found that E-Verify skipped the entire photo ID process on 280,000 occasions for non-citizens in 2019. Lastly, the report found that though a driver’s license can be confirmed to be valid, it cannot confirm that it belongs to the individual being screened. This, as well as other errors, mean that 613,000 individuals were authorized without confirming that their IDs were actually valid.

The OIG, therefore, made ten recommendations to improve the system. These are: 

  1. Establish a formal process to ensure the accuracy of E-Verify’s identity and employment verification process on a regular basis.
  2. Create a process for error detection, notification, and resolution.
  3. Create a plan for ensuring E-Verify’s photo-matching process is performed in accordance with the system’s requirements.
  4. Perform a study to determine if E-Verify’s photo matching and identity verification can be automated.
  5. Work with state agencies or the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System to determine if the USCIS can obtain photos from driver’s licenses for photo matching.
  6. Perform a study to find an appropriate confidence score at which to set an approval threshold.
  7. Perform a study to determine whether the E-Verify process for ensuring employer-petitioned visa holders are verified can be further automated or, if not, establish procedures for manual review.
  8. Determine whether the current workload projection of E-Verify is accurate and update those projections as necessary.
  9. Perform a study to determine the resources necessary to test E-Verify’s present and projected workload capability.
  10. Create working agreements with the E-Verify system’s data partners for both testing and coordinating workload capabilities.

The USCIS responded to the OIG’s recommendations by stating that though it would implement all recommendations, it has no control over the issue with verifying driver’s licenses and that it is not required to fully automate the photo-matching process.