E-Verify is a voluntary program run by the United States government to help certify that employees hired by companies are not authorized to work in this country illegally. Formerly known as the Basic Pilot/Employment Eligibility Verification Program, the program is operated by the Department of Homeland Security in partnership with the Social Security Administration.
The program is currently set to expire in November 2008. The expiration period reflects uncertainty in Congress about the accuracy and collateral consequences of the verification program.
As of September 2007, most of the United States federal government did not use the system when hiring employees, but a new directive mandates that they use the system starting October 1 2007. On June 6 2008, President George W. Bush signed an amendment to Executive Order 12989 requiring that more than 200,000 federal contractors to use E-Verify. More than 22,000 companies have registered. Guidelines are being drafted to deal with companies that repeatedly hire illegal immigrants. About 5 percent of queries are identified as "not authorized to work". Every month, over 2,000 companies join the program.
The state of Arizona requires employers to participate in E-Verify: the Legal Arizona Workers Act has survived a number of constitutional challenges and is currently in effect. The Governor of Illinois, Rod R. Blagojevich signed a law that forbids companies in Illinois from using the service. The Department of Homeland Security is suing them in federal court to overturn this law. Secretary Michael Chertoff of the DHS negotiated an agreement with the State of Illinois that employers in Illinois could continue to use the program while the suit moves forward.
In 2007, DHS proposed a "no-match" regulation specifying "safe harbor" procedures for an employer to follow in response to notification that an employee's Social Security number is invalid. A federal district court in California blocked the proposed regulation from taking effect. As of early March 2008, the DHS is revising the regulation. The state of Georgia is also considering making compliance mandatory.
The program has also been called inaccurate, though the error rate, currently around 8 percent, is decreasing, as many of the errors came from changing last names after marriage, or not informing the government they were now citizens. An activist group called NumbersUSA is creating a service to track which companies join and which do not to build pressure on non-participating companies to join.
President George W. Bush proposed in his 2009 Federal Budget $100 million for E-Verify, specifically for "expansion and enhancement" of the system.
In April 2008, U.S. Government has extended the duration of post-completion work authorization (the "Optional Practical Training" (OPT)) from 12 months to 29 months for certain qualifying foreign students with completed U.S. degrees in Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM). Many of these students would otherwise have to leave U.S., or participate in a lottery to win an H1B work visa. An alternative temporary visa used by college graduates sponsored by U.S. employers is the H-1B visa. This visa is capped annually at 65,000 new petitions. The limit is insufficient to meet demand. In the past two years, the demand has been so great that the Citizenship and Immigration Service of the DHS has established a lottery for sponsoring employers. The unpredictability of the lottery has made it difficult for business and foreign temporary professional workers.
OPT extension is often the only practical way to avoid the lottery in such cases, and therefore important for keeping foreign talent in the United States. In order to obtain the extension, U.S. Government requires the student's employer to be enrolled in E-verify. This requirement might prompt many employers to join E-verify, such as big U.S. technology companies who employ many highly-skilled foreign U.S.-educated workers.