Publication Date



[Excerpt] Unauthorized immigration and unauthorized employment continue to be key issues in the ongoing debate over immigration policy. Today’s discussions about these issues build on the work of prior Congresses. In 1986, following many years of debate about unauthorized immigration to the United States, Congress passed the Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA). This law sought to address unauthorized immigration, in part, by requiring all employers to examine documents presented by new hires to verify identity and work authorization and to complete and retain employment eligibility verification (I 9) forms. Ten years later, in the face of a growing unauthorized population, Congress attempted to strengthen the employment verification process by establishing pilot programs for electronic verification, as part of the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act of 1996 (IIRIRA).

The Basic Pilot program (known today as E Verify), the first of the three IIRIRA employment verification pilots to be implemented and the only one still in operation, began in November 1997. Originally scheduled to terminate in November 2001, it has been extended several times. It is currently authorized until September 30, 2018, in accordance with the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2018 (P.L. 115 141).

E Verify is administered by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS’s) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). As of April 2, 2018, there were 779,722 employers enrolled in E Verify, representing more than 2.5 million hiring sites. E Verify is a largely voluntary program, but there are some mandatory participation requirements. Among them is a rule, which became effective in 2009, requiring certain federal contracts to contain a new clause committing contractors to use E Verify.

Under E Verify, participating employers enter information about their new hires (name, date of birth, Social Security number, immigration/citizenship status, and alien number, if applicable) into an online system. This information is automatically compared with information in Social Security Administration and, if necessary, DHS databases to verify identity and employment eligibility. Legislation on electronic employment eligibility verification has been considered in recent Congresses. In weighing proposals on electronic employment verification, Congress may find it useful to evaluate them in terms of their potential impact on a set of related issues: unauthorized employment; verification system accuracy, efficiency, and capacity; discrimination; employer compliance; privacy; and verification system usability and employer burden.


Suggested Citation
Bruno, A. (2018). Electronic employment eligibility verification (CRS Report R40446). Washington, D.C.: Congressional Research Service.