More than 500,000 employers now use E-Verify in about 1.5-million workplaces, the federal government’s free online service that allows United States employers to confirm their new employees’ eligibility to work in this country.

U.S. law requires companies to employ only individuals who may legally work in the United States – either U.S. citizens or foreign citizens who have the necessary authorization.

Operating since1996, E-Verify is a free Internet-based system that allows businesses to determine the eligibility of their employees to work in the United States. Employers who use E-Verify receive a response on an employee’s work authorization status within seconds — 98.8 percent of work-authorized employees are automatically confirmed instantly or within 24 hours, requiring no further employee or employer action.

“Participation in E-Verify is largely voluntary, so the fact that half a million companies have signed up demonstrates significant confidence in the program,” said Lori Scialabba, Acting Director of U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). “Employers using E-Verify find it helps them maintain a legal workforce in a quick, secure and accurate way.”

During the program’s first 16 years annual enrollments have increased tenfold, from 11,474 in 1996 to 111,671 in 2012. Last year employers used E-Verify more than 25 million times, according to USCIS.

Recent system enhancements include:

  • The introduction of “Self Check”, which allows individuals to look up their employment eligibility status and correct their records before they seek work;
  • The capability to combat identity fraud by locking Social Security numbers suspected of being misused for employment eligibility verification; and
  • A redesigned website to include “more plain-language content and easy-to-follow graphics.”

The U.S. Senate and the House both have pending immigration reform proposals mandating the use of E-Verify by private employers nationwide. Both bills would phase in employers’ obligation to use an E-Verify program over a period of years, depending on an organization’s size.

The Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) and the Council for Global Immigration are advocating for a single “reliable and secure” verification system that pre-empts state laws and uses identity-authentication tools, such as knowledge-based authentication, to protect against identity theft so that businesses can confidently hire work-authorized employees.

“The current E-Verify program can be defeated by identity theft,” said Mike Aitken, SHRM vice president for government affairs. “While E-Verify can confirm that the documents presented by a job applicant are real, it cannot confirm that the prospective employee is the person who owns that identity. This leaves the door open for unauthorized individuals to use impostor identities to gain verification of work authorization.”

Employers and other interested persons may visit online for more information about the program, both in English and Spanish. USCIS has recently released “E-Verify for Business Leaders,” a new four-minute video that introduces the program’s benefits to prospective users. It is accessible free online at: