Employment Verification: Challenges Exist in Implementing a Mandatory Electronic Employment Verification System Page: 2 of 24
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Accountability. Integrity. Reliability
Highlights of GAO-08-729T, a testimony
before the Subcommittee on Social
Security, Committee on Ways and Means,
House of Representatives
Why GAO Did This Study
In 1996, the former U.S.
Immigration and Naturalization
Service, now within the
Department of Homeland Security
(DHS), and the Social Security
Administration (SSA) began
operating a voluntary pilot
program, recently named the E-
Verify program, to provide
participating employers with a
means for electronically verifying
employees' work eligibility.
Legislation has been introduced in
Congress to require all employers
to electronically verify the work
authorization status of their
employees. In this testimony GAO
provides observations on the E-
Verify system's capacity and costs,
options for reducing delays and
improving efficiency in the
verification process, ability to
detect fraudulent documents and
identity theft, and vulnerability to
employer fraud and misuse. This
testimony is based on GAO's
products issued from August 2005
through June 2007 and updated
information obtained from DHS
and SSA in April 2008. We analyzed
data on employer use, E-Verify
guidance, and other reports on the
employment verification process,
as well as legislative proposals and
In 2005, we recommended that
DHS include an assessment of the
feasibility and costs of addressing
program weaknesses, such as
inability to detect identity fraud, in
a planned evaluation of the
program. DHS implemented this
recommendation. This testimony
contains no new recommendations.
To view the full product, including the scope
and methodology, click on GAO-08-729T.
For more information, contact Richard M.
Stana at (202) 512-8777 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Challenges Exist in Implementing a Mandatory
Electronic Employment Verification System
What GAO Found
A mandatory E-Verify program would necessitate an increased capacity at
both U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and SSA to
accommodate the estimated 7.4 million employers in the United States.
According to USCIS, as of April 2008, more than 61,000 employers have
registered for E-Verify, and about half are active users. Although DHS has not
prepared official cost figures, USCIS officials estimated that a mandatory E-
Verify program could cost a total of about $765 million for fiscal years 2009
through 2012 if only newly hired employees are queried through the program
and about $838 million over the same 4-year period if both newly hired and
current employees are queried. USCIS has estimated that it would need
additional staff for a mandatory E-Verify program, but was not yet able to
provide estimates for its staffing needs. SSA has estimated that
implementation of a mandatory E-Verify program would cost a total of about
$281 million and require hiring 700 new employees for a total of 2,325
additional workyears for fiscal years 2009 through 2013.
USCIS and SSA are exploring options to reduce delays and improve efficiency
in the E-Verify process. The majority of E-Verify queries entered by
employers-about 92 percent-confirm within seconds that the employee is
work-authorized. About 7 percent of the queries cannot be immediately
confirmed as work authorized by SSA, and about 1 percent cannot be
immediately confirmed as work authorized by USCIS because employees'
information queried through the system does not match information in SSA or
DHS databases. The majority of SSA erroneous tentative nonconfirmations
occur because employees' citizenship or other information, such as name
changes, is not up to date in the SSA database, generally because individuals
do not request that SSA make these updates. USCIS and SSA are planning to
implement initiatives to help address these weaknesses and reduce delays.
E-Verify may help employers detect fraudulent documents thereby reducing
such fraud, but it cannot yet fully address identity fraud issues, for example
when employees present genuine documents that may be stolen. USCIS has
added a photograph screening tool to E-Verify through which an employer
verifies the authenticity of certain documents, such as an employment
authorization document, by matching the photograph on the document with
the photograph in DHS databases. USCIS is exploring options to expand this
tool to include other forms of documentation, such as passports, with
databases that store photographic information, but these efforts are in the
planning stages and require decisions about data sharing and privacy issues.
E-Verify is vulnerable to acts of employer fraud and misuse, such as
employers limiting employees' pay during the E-Verify process. USCIS has
established a branch to review employers' use of E-Verify. In addition,
information suggesting employers' fraud or misuse can be useful to U.S.
Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) in targeting worksite
enforcement resources. USCIS and ICE are negotiating a memorandum of
understanding to define roles and responsibilities for sharing information.
United States Government Accountability Office
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United States. Government Accountability Office. Employment Verification: Challenges Exist in Implementing a Mandatory Electronic Employment Verification System, text, May 6, 2008; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc290978/m1/2/: accessed September 24, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.