People in Arizona can now check whether their Social Security numbers will turn up red flags when run through E-Verify, the federal electronic system used to confirm whether prospective workers are in the U.S. legally.
On Monday, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security launched E-Verify Self Check, which also is available in Colorado, Idaho, Mississippi, Virginia and the District of Columbia. It will be extended to all states by the end of the year.
“E-Verify is a smart, simple and effective tool that allows us to work with employers to help them maintain a legal workforce,” Department of Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano said in a news release. “The E-Verify Self Check service will help protect workers and streamline the E-Verify process for businesses.”
The initiative complements E-Verify by limiting bureaucratic hiccups and giving job applicants the opportunity to correct errors in Homeland Security and Social Security Administration databases that the system uses.
Arizona law requires businesses to use E-Verify and punishes companies that knowingly hire illegal workers by suspending or revoking their business licenses. However, federal officials said employers cannot require individuals to use the self-check system or use it to pre-screen applicants.
Garrick Taylor, a spokesman for the Arizona Chamber of Commerce and Industry, said the self-check system can decrease the amount of time and resources an employer must spend correcting inaccurate results from E-Verify.
“This really puts the onus on the employee,” he said. “It’s geared at the employee, but it’s one less thing for the employer to have to deal with.”
More than 200,000 businesses are registered for E-Verify – about 1 percent of all employers – and only half of those use the system regularly, according to data provided by the Department of Homeland Security.
Michelle Mittelstadt, a spokeswoman for the Washington, D.C.-based Migration Policy Institute, said that the self-check system is a positive development for job seekers.
“The self-check system empowers the worker with a certain amount of information,” she said. “It lessens the pool of problematic areas and paves the way for a new system.”
E-Verify has come under fire for the number of errors based on the Homeland Security and Social Security databases. When that happens, individuals are required to resolve the discrepancies.
Mittelstadt said the new system could be a stepping-stone to better anti-fraud tools that would secure workers’ information and protect against identity theft.
“Ultimately, this could be used by workers to lock their Social Security in place,” she said.
Facts about E-Verify
• E-Verify is a federal, Web-based program for U.S. businesses to verify the eligibility of new hires.
• E-Verify is a voluntary federal program, except in the states that mandate that businesses use this system. Arizona is one of these states.
• In 2010 there were 216,721 employers enrolled in E-Verify and 13,411,411 cases run through the E-Verify system. Of these total cases, 1.7 percent of employees received incorrectly mismatched results.