According to the recently released data from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), more than 100,000 U.S. employers are now participating in the Federal Government’s online eligibility verification program, known as E-Verify. The Internet-based system, operated by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA), allows participating employers to electronically verify their employees’ eligibility to legally work in the United States. USCIS administers the program.

While the use of E-Verify continues to be voluntary for most U.S. businesses, recent legislative and executive branch actions at both Federal and state level suggest a growing trend to make participation in E-Verify mandatory for more categories of employers. The latest group to be affected by these changes are Federal contractors and subcontractors.

USCIS reported that for FY2009 to date, more than 2 million employment verification queries have been run using E-Verify.  During FY2008, approximately 6.6 million employment verification queries were processed (as compared to a total of 3.27 million in all of FY2007).   The Department of Homeland Security’s FY2009 appropriation legislation, signed into law on Sept. 30, 2008, provided $100 million to continue, expand and improve E-Verify in FY2009.

In a move likely to vastly increase employer participation in the program, Federal contractors and subcontractors will be required to begin using E-Verify starting February 20, 2009. Several states already mandate its use for employers receiving state contracts or grants. State-specific E-Verify laws are detailed and complex. ImmigrationTracker™, the developer of Tracker I-9™ and other award-winning immigration and employment management systems, has recently released the latest version of its Form I-9 software, which includes the option of selective use of E-Verify among multiple worksites and for individual employees to meet the latest requirements for Federal and state contractors.

While some businesses welcome E-Verify as a useful tool to keep their workforce legal, business and civil rights groups tend to oppose mandatory employment verification requirements. Legal challenges have delayed but did not stop the planned implementation of the new rule affecting Federal contractors and subcontractors.

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