Sept. 3, 2009

Verification system instituted for federal contractors

The E-Verify system, a program coordinated by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration, electronically validates Social Security numbers and confirms employees are legally authorized to work in the United States.

Federal contractors and subcontractors who meet certain criteria will be required to use the system, beginning as early as Sept. 8. At ISU, that means employees assigned to federal contracts that contain a specific Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) clause will be verified through the newly implemented system.

Who is impacted?

The E-Verify requirement only applies to contracts exceeding $100,000 and lasting 120 days or more; and to subcontracts for services and construction exceeding $3,000. For example, ISU received more than 200 federal awards from July through November of 2008, and approximately 20 might have required an E-Verify check if the program had been in effect.

Employees currently assigned to federal contracts will not be retroactively checked, unless the federal government modifies a contract to include the FAR clause. Only new and modified contracts will be impacted.

For federal contracts that qualify under the E-Verify rule, all employees assigned to the contract must be run through the system. Generally, professional and scientific employees, faculty and graduate students assigned to work on the contract will be the only ones verified through the system, and that typically would be only once while employed at ISU. For instance, that includes the principal investigators and assistants (including post-docs, and graduate and undergraduate students). It would not include support help -- such as secretarial and custodial workers -- who are not performing substantial duties related to the contract.

The process

ISU's Human Resource Service Center and records management staff will handle the E-Verify process, working closely with the Office of Sponsored Programs. There is no cost to use the program.

"There are very definite guidelines," said Lea Henderson, service center manager. "They tell us that within three to five seconds we'll have a response as to whether the person is confirmed or nonconfirmed, and the error rate is 3 to 5 percent. However, the E-Verify process has had higher error rates in some areas of the country.

"If it comes back as a confirmed match, we just note it on the I-9 [federal employment eligibility] form and we're good to go," Henderson said. "If it comes back a 'temporary nonconfirmed,' there is a very detailed process we have to go through."

The employee would be notified and given the option to contest, she said. More documentation would be required to contest the result, which could include communication with the Social Security office, Department of Homeland Security or U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. Henderson said most errors reported in the system have been minor, such as transposed numbers or a nickname entered in place of a legal name.

If an employee doesn't contest the result, or cannot be verified after contesting the finding, that individual is not eligible to work on the contract or at ISU, according to the federal agencies involved, and must be terminated.

"Because that means they're not authorized to work here," Henderson said.

No delays

The new system will not postpone or slow down the hiring process, Henderson said. In fact, the program requirements prohibit the use of E-Verify to screen job applicants or determine job offers.

"We can't do it early in the process. We have to wait until they are a hire," she said. "After that, we engage E-Verify as part of the process, but not until we have an I-9 form."