OIG Report Says USCIS Must Improve Its Electronic Verification Process

In August of 2021, the Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) submitted a final report to Ur M. Jaddou, the Director of the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), entitled USCIS Needs to Improve Its Electronic Employment Eligibility Verification Process. The report found that the E-Verify system used by the USCIS does not have the capacity to accurately confirm the identity and employment eligibility ofnoncitizens.

The report contains 10 recommendations intended to improve USCIS’ electronic employment eligibility verification process, and the USCIS concurred with all ten recommendations. The report’s underlying investigation discovered deficiencies that prevented the USCIS from accurately confirming workers’ identities and work authorization on at least 800,000 occasions.

USCIS uses an E-Verify system to confirm whether newly hired workers may legally work in the United States. However, the report found defects in the E-Verify system that increased the risk of undetected fraud. These included problems with the system’s photo identification and driver’s license verification processes. “Until USCIS improves its processes and addresses deficiencies in E-Verify, its mission to reduce unlawful employment and illegal immigration is at increased risk,” the OIG’s report stated.

The E-Verify system was authorized by Congress in 1996 to prevent undocumented workers from working in the country. The system electronically compares information from employees’ I-9 forms to the records in other federal agencies. Employers must submit I-9 forms for every new employee that they hire, regardless of whether he or she is a U.S. citizen. In 2019, E-Verify processed over 39 million cases.

The OIG’s findings include (1) E-Verify’s identity confirmation capabilities were limited by the manual photo-matching process, and (2) E-Verify issued employment verification decisions without verifying state driver’s license data in some cases. The report found that E-Verify relied on employers to confirm their workers’ identities through a photo review, instead of using an automated process. It also found E-Verify skipped the photo ID process for 280,000 noncitizens in 2019.

The report also found problems with E-Verify’s driver’s license verification system. While E-Verify can confirm the validity of a driver’s license, it cannot currently verify whether the license positively belongs to the screened person, and other system errors prevented E-Verify from determining the validity of a license. As a result, the USCIS authorized employment for 613,000 individuals without confirming whether their identification cards and driver’s licenses were valid.

The OIG’s Recommendations

Recommendation 1: Implement a formal process to validate the accuracy of E-Verify’s identity and employment verification processes on a periodic basis, at least annually. 

Recommendation 2: Establish a mechanism for detection, notification, and timely resolution of E-Verify system errors. 

Recommendation 3: Develop a plan to ensure E-Verify’s photo-matching process for Permanent Resident Cards and EADs is conducted in accordance with E-Verify system use requirements. 

Recommendation 4: Conduct a study to determine the feasibility of automating E-Verify’s photo matching and identity verification capabilities. 

Recommendation 5: Collaborate with individual states and/or the National Law Enforcement Telecommunications System to determine whether USCIS can obtain driver’s license photos for E-Verify’s photo matching. 

Recommendation 6: Conduct a study to determine an appropriate approval threshold for the confidence score and update USCIS procedure accordingly. 

Recommendation 7: Conduct a study to determine the feasibility of further automating E-Verify to ensure that employer-petitioned visa holders (e.g., H1B) are verified as required or implement manual review procedures to ensure adequate verification. 

Recommendation 8: Validate the accuracy of E-Verify’s current workload projections and update the projections as needed. 

Recommendation 9: Conduct a study to determine the appropriate resources needed to fully test the E-Verify system’s current and projected workload capabilities. 

Recommendation 10: Establish and execute agreements with E-Verify’s data partners for testing and coordinating workload capabilities.

In response to these recommendations, the USCIS said it is not required to fully automate E-Verify’s photo-matching process. Further, it claimed that the problem with verifying driver’s licenses was something over which it has no control. Nonetheless, the agency said it would implement the watchdog’s recommendations.

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