What Is E-Verify and How Does it Work?

what is e verify

If your business hires employees, you should know about E-Verify. The federal program tries to ensure employers that their new hires are eligible to work in the U.S. It is potentially relevant for all employers, and even mandatory for some. So exactly what is E-Verify and how does it work?

What Is E-Verify?

E-Verify stands as a digital bridge connecting employers to a database maintained by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, facilitating them in determining an employee’s legal work status in the U.S.

Born out of the need to streamline the employee verification process, E-Verify complements the Form I-9, which is an obligatory document for assessing an individual’s employment eligibility.

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This synergy between the two offers an organized and efficient process for employers, reducing paperwork and the chances of human error.

what is e verify

What Does E-Verify Check?

E-Verify, at its core, is a meticulous validation tool. Once an employer has registered, the data extracted from an employee’s I-9 form is fed into the E-Verify system.

This data undergoes a comparative analysis with records sourced from an ensemble of federal government bodies, such as the Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration.

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The intent? To render a succinct conclusion about an individual’s legal work status in the U.S. Tracing its roots back to 1996, E-Verify began its journey as an optional program.

However, recognizing its efficacy, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in 2007 mandated its usage for federal contractors and vendors.

While whispers about universal federal implementation have been persistent, they haven’t materialized into a mandate. Yet, a tapestry of state-specific rules has emerged, with several states advocating its use in various capacities.

what is e verify

Who Can Use E-Verify?

Accessibility and inclusivity define E-Verify. It throws its doors open for all U.S. employers, offering a streamlined registration process through its dedicated website. Here, prospective employers furnish rudimentary details about their business to earn the badge of a ‘registered employer’.

The narrative, however, changes slightly when discussing its mandate. While the majority of businesses can opt for voluntary usage, those entwined with federal contracts or subcontracts find it obligatory.

An additional layer of complexity is introduced by individual states: nearly 20 of them have championed E-Verify’s adoption in varied magnitudes. Predominantly, these mandates have a penchant towards government contractors rather than private establishments.

Given this intricate web of regulations, employers are advised to acquaint themselves with their state’s legal landscape to navigate E-Verify’s applicability seamlessly.

what is e verify

How to Use E-Verify

  • Start by enrolling your business on the E-Verify platform. Sign up online and provide company details such as name, location, and EIN.
  • After signing up, complete a tutorial on adding Form I-9 details. Remember that completing the Form I-9 is essential before using E-Verify.
  • For every new employee, upload the necessary details from their Form I-9. E-Verify will automatically verify their work eligibility.
  • In some cases, E-Verify may provide photos to match with documents presented by the new hire, like Passports or Green Cards, aiding in fraud prevention.

Benefits of Using E-Verify

E-Verify stands out as a streamlined tool amidst the intricate process of employee eligibility verification. This platform aids businesses in seamlessly ensuring their adherence to federal hiring norms.

An integral aspect of E-Verify is its interactive training module which offers step-by-step guidance. Additionally, the system is equipped with error detection, detailed usage statistics, and a dedicated customer support team to assist employers in their journey.

A primary incentive for businesses to incorporate E-Verify is the potential avoidance of severe legal ramifications. Federally, adoption of this system becomes imperative for those keen on securing government contracts.

Various states have instituted penalties, ranging from forfeiture of tax benefits to the dire consequence of losing a business license, targeting enterprises neglecting the system.

With ongoing discussions and the possibility of it becoming a mandatory requirement on the national scale, it’s vital for businesses to stay updated and weigh the advantages against any perceived drawbacks.

The direction the wind blows in the upcoming years could drastically alter the landscape of this debate

Benefits of Using E-Verify: Key Points

  • Simplifies employee eligibility checking.
  • Ensures compliance with federal hiring regulations.
  • Provides interactive training, error checking, usage reports, and dedicated customer service.
  • Avoidance of legal penalties, especially for those aiming at government contracts.
  • Mitigates risks associated with potential future mandates on its use.

what is e verify

Issues with E-Verify

While E-Verify is championed by many as a tool to facilitate adherence to federal employment regulations, some skepticism persists, especially among businesses that aren’t mandated to use it. One recurring apprehension is the system’s accuracy.

Issues such as identity theft can introduce errors into the system. Moreover, naturalized citizens are mandated to refresh their records with the Social Security Administration to verify their employment eligibility. This not only consumes time but can also result in data discrepancies in E-Verify.

For the smaller entrepreneurial ecosystem, the resource investment required to integrate E-Verify might seem overwhelming. Although the system is free to use, setting up an account, managing it, and uploading the necessary information for every recruit demands attention and time.

While major corporations might absorb this process seamlessly due to dedicated HR teams, smaller entities might feel the pinch. The absence of a dedicated HR wing in many small businesses means every additional regulatory step could potentially infringe on their operational efficiency.

A significant commitment is also demanded when one opts for E-Verify. Once onboarded, businesses are mandated to verify every new hire, without exceptions. This means once committed, businesses need to integrate E-Verify into their recruitment framework fully.

E-Verify has, however, evolved over the years. Continuous improvements to its website and the overall process have rendered it more user-friendly than its earlier iterations.

This progression is a silver lining for mandatory users. Yet, the additional responsibility might remain a cause for concern for some small enterprises, making them hesitant to incorporate it into their hiring protocol voluntarily

Issues with E Verify: Key Points

  • Accuracy concerns, especially regarding identity theft and naturalized citizens’ data.
  • Time-consuming, especially for small businesses without a dedicated HR team.
  • Mandatory use for all new hires once enrolled – no selective verification.
  • Additional regulatory burden which might limit productivity for small businesses.

what is e verify

Comparison Between E-Verify and Traditional I-9 Verification

Below is a concise comparison between the E-Verify system and the traditional I-9 verification process, highlighting key aspects such as cost, time consumption, and regulatory requirements.

CriteriaE-VerifyTraditional I-9 Verification
CostFreeN/A (Paperwork processing costs)
Time ConsumptionMight be lengthy, especially for small businessesDepends on the manual checking process
AccuracyConcerns about mismatches and identity theftManual review, dependent on individual scrutiny
Regulatory RequirementMandatory for federal contractors and some states' businessesMandatory for all US employers
Penalties for Non-complianceLoss of government contracts, potential loss of business license in some statesFines and potential legal implications


Image: U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service/YouTube 4 Comments ▼

Ed Lieber Ed Lieber is a staff writer for Small Business Trends. He is a journalist and marketing copywriter with 20 years of experience writing, editing and managing for print and digital vehicles.

4 Reactions
  1. But how about outsourcing work overseas? Is this just for people who hold positions in companies in the US?

    • Jimmy W Lancaster

      Maybe when we run out of people who would like to work in the US we can think ab I UT outsourcing. But until then we can keep our jobs where they belong.

  2. Is this another way to discriminate based on age, race or other characteristics.
    Accessing Social Security allows age to be disclosed.
    How can only the SS# be revealed?

    • You use e-verify AFTER the person is hired, using their I-9 to gather information. All of that information is available to HR at that time, regardless of whether you use e-verify or not.

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