A Look at the History of E-Verify and its Initial Development

HR Resource
September 2, 2013 — 2,070 views  
Become a Bronze Member for monthly eNewsletter, articles, and white papers.

Illegal immigration and undocumented worker hiring was a hot button topic in the late 1990s, with an immediacy that is mirrored only in today's more recent discussions of illegal immigration and its implications on the broader economy. Much of the problem with undocumented worker hiring came from a distinct lack of efficiency on behalf of the federal government. Though the government had long required all employees, both private and public, to verify the immigration status of their employees, the agency was frequently swamped with I-9 forms and was unable to verify them all in a timely matter.

The verification process for individual I-9 form submission was known in the 1990s to take several weeks or even a month. In the meantime, undocumented workers were often hired tentatively, with most employers giving them the benefit of the doubt and allowing them to continue on the job unless an issue later arose with a fully audited I-9 form. Communication about that form was sent by mail, which resulted in further delays when addressing the issue of a tentatively hired employee who was undocumented and thus ineligible for employment.

In 1997, the government drafted legislation that would lead to a new electric employment verification method using what was then a cutting-edge new tool: the Internet. The bill passed with bipartisan support and three test systems were quickly released by federal agencies. All three systems operated using an Internet connection, requiring the digital submission and transmission of Social Security numbers and other information that could be used to determine work eligibility.

After several years of limited tests and plenty of government studies, the two less optimal systems were eliminated and the final option was made available to all employers nationwide. Originally known as the "Basic Pilot Program," the system was rebranded E-Verify by the government at the start of the 20th century. E-Verify was deployed on an optional, opt-in basis for both federal agencies and private employers shortly thereafter.

HR Resource