Exclusive: DHS expands E-Verify Self Check

Monday - 8/15/2011, 9:08am EDT

Alejandro Mayorkas, director, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services

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By Jack Moore
Federal News Radio

The Homeland Security Department is expanding a project that could simplify hiring. The E-Verify Self Check program, which allows job seekers to check their own employment eligibility status before formally seeking a job, is expanding into 16 more states today.

Following a limited rollout in March, the expansion of the self-check means millions more people can go online to make sure the government has accurate information about whether they're allowed to work in the U.S. and could make for fewer hiring headaches.

Alejandro Mayorkas, the director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, joined the Federal Drive to discuss what the expanded launch of the program means.

Mayorkas announced that Self Check is now available in 16 additional states, including: California, Louisiana, Maine, Maryland, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, Nevada, New Jersey, New York, Ohio, South Carolina, Texas, Utah and Washington.

The original phase of the program launched the service on March 21 in a few states and the District of Columbia, as a partnership between DHS and the Social Security Administration and their respective databases of employee information.

Mayorkas said the program aims to dispel hiring headaches that happen because of conflicting information found in those databases.

If, for example, a woman marries and changes her surname but doesn't update that information with the Social Security Administration, information provided to the employer and information stored in the databases could conflict.

However, if there is a conflict between records, a newly hired employee only has eight days to contact the SSA and update his or her records, which "as you can imagine, puts a strain on the new employee and also creates uncertainty for the employer, who's eager to get that employee working at the job site," Mayorkas said.

"What we've done is allow the employee to check the accuracy of the government records before that employment situation arises," he said.

The limited roll out of Self Check enabled USCIS to evaluate the service on a smaller scale before rolling it out to a larger audience, the agency said. USCIS said it will continue to evaluate the program and plans to expand the program nationwide no later than March of next year.

At a time when many agency projects are being put on the back burner because of tight budgets, some may wonder how the E-Verify program is able to expand.

Mayorkas said the program has been funded by Congress for a number of years and noted the the administration's fiscal-year 2012 budget request also includes an appropriation for the program, he said.

"We've been very careful in how we've spent that money," Mayorkas said, "and we've spent it dedicated to the improvement of program, both in terms of its accuracy and in terms of tools such as these that serve the employer and employee communities alike. "