Frederick G. Streckewald
Assistant Deputy Commissioner for Disability and Income Security Programs
(Income Security Programs)
Office of Disability and Income Security Programs
House Committee on Ways and Means
Subcommittee on Social Security
Employment Eligibility Verification Systems (EEVS)
June 7, 2007
Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:
Thank you for inviting me here today to discuss the Social Security Administration's (SSA's) role in helping to administer the Department of Homeland Security's (DHS) Employment Eligibility Verification System (EEVS). This system, formerly known as the Basic Pilot Program, allows employers to verify the employment eligibility information provided by newly hired employees.
Worksite enforcement is key to successful immigration reform, and a critical component of worksite enforcement is a strong employer verification system. The Administration supports—and proposals currently pending before Congress incorporate—mandatory participation in an employment eligibility verification system by all United States employers . We are pleased that you are holding this hearing today to discuss the impact of the expansion of EEVS on SSA, employers and their employees. We are keenly aware of the need to ensure that the system works the way it is intended.
The History of the Current, Voluntary System
The Immigration Reform and Control Act (IRCA) of 1986 required employers for the first time to examine worker documents to check the employment eligibility of newly hired employees. Ten years later, in 1996, Congress enacted the Illegal Immigration Reform and Immigrant Responsibility Act (IIRIRA), which required testing three alternative methods of providing an effective, nondiscriminatory employment eligibility confirmation process; the current EEVS was one of the three methods.
The law required the voluntary EEVS to be implemented in a minimum of 5 of the 7 States with the highest estimated population of noncitizens not lawfully present in the United States . The five states were California , Florida , Illinois , New York and Texas .
In March 1999, Nebraska was added to assist employers in the meatpacking industry. Employers in those six states were also allowed to include their work sites located in other states. In 2002, Congress extended authorization for the system for an additional 2 years . In 2003, Congress again extended the EEVS and expanded the voluntary participation to include employers in all 50 States . The system will expire in 2008 under current law.
In December 2004, before the nationwide expansion, there were 2,924 participating employers. Today, t here are more than 17,000 employers participating in the EEVS at more than 77,000 sites, and participation is growing by more than 1,000 employers every month. As the number of participating employers has grown, so has the number of queries we handle. In Fiscal Year (FY) 2005, SSA handled approximately 980,000 queries; in FY 2006, we handled over 1,740,000. So far, in FY 2007, we have handled more than 1,800,000 queries, an increase of 96 percent over the same period last year.
Employers participate voluntarily and register with DHS to use the automated system to verify an employee's SSN and work authorization status. The employer inputs information into the system from the Form I-9, the Employment Eligibility Verification Form. DHS then sends this information to SSA to verify for all new employees that the Social Security number, name, and date of birth submitted match information in SSA records. For individuals alleging United States citizenship, SSA will also confirm citizenship status, thereby confirming work authorization. For all non-citizens, if there is a match with SSA, DHS then determines the current work authorization status. Within three to five seconds, through the system, DHS notifies the employer of the result; employment authorized, SSA tentative nonconfirmation, DHS verification in progress, or DHS tentative nonconfirmation.
Ninety-two percent of initial verification queries are confirmed within seconds. If SSA cannot confirm that the information matches SSA records or cannot confirm United States citizenship, DHS will notify the employer of the SSA tentative nonconfirmation. The employer must notify the employee of the tentative nonconfirmation in order to provide the employee the opportunity to contest that finding. If the employee contests the tentative nonconfirmation, he or she has eight days to visit an SSA office with the required documents to correct the SSA record. The employer must re-query the system to verify that the tentative nonconfirmation has been resolved.
SSA has a good ongoing working relationship with DHS. Together, we continue to work to improve upon the operation of the current system—to make it work more efficiently and more smoothly for employers and their employees. We have begun laying the groundwork to increase our capacity to handle substantially heavier volumes of verification transactions, as the voluntary program continues to grow. If Congress mandates the use of the system, these improvements will facilitate nationwide expansion.
There are several proposals now pending in Congress that would require all employers in the United States to use the EEVS to verify the employment eligibility and identity of all new hires. The bills we have seen provide for some kind of phased-in approach to mandatory participation and require employers operating in the Nation's critical infrastructures to be the first participants. Some proposals also require employers to verify the employment eligibility and identity of their entire workforce and to periodically re-verify the work authorization status of individuals whose temporary work authorization is set to expire.
As I mentioned earlier, SSA and DHS are already working to lay the groundwork for broader employer participation in the current EEVS. Every year, approximately 60 million individuals start a new job. Therefore, we would expect mandatory participation to have a substantial effect on our Agency. It is vitally important that, when Congress makes a decision regarding the implementation of a mandatory program, we have adequate lead-time and resources. With these tools, we can effectively expand the EEVS and ensure that it works successfully without impinging on our ability to handle our other workloads.
SSA matches information submitted by the employer against the information in our Numident database, which houses the identifying information, including name, date of birth, and SSN of more than 441 million individuals. We have great confidence in the integrity of the Numident information. In fact, in a December 2006 report issued to Congress, SSA's Office of Inspector General (OIG) commended the accuracy of Numident information.
Of course, in any large system of records, there will be records that require updating or correcting. For example, the OIG found discrepancies in 4.1 percent of Numident records that might lead to tentative nonconfirmations and that 7 percent of naturalized citizens had not updated their Numident records to reflect their new citizenship status. In the administration of our programs, we update or correct our records at the time an individual applies for a replacement card, requests a change in the record—a name change, for example—or applies for a Social Security benefit. As part of the process to correct our records, we need to verify the identity of the individual whose records we are updating and the information we are adding to the individual's records. That is why virtually all of these changes are made during a face-to-face interview in our field offices.
One way we provide individuals the opportunity to review and, if necessary, correct their wage records is the annual Social Security Statement that goes to each worker 25 years or older. The statement provides individuals with an annual report of wages recorded. In FY 2006, SSA mailed approximately 145 million Statements.
Our current experience with voluntary EEVS shows that for every 100 queries submitted to the System, SSA field offices or phone representatives are contacted three times. As the number of participating employers increases, the number of related contacts with SSA will also increase. We anticipate that in a mandatory system the percentage of individuals coming to us will be higher than in the current voluntary system.
As you know, the Agency is currently facing substantial challenges in meeting the workloads of our core programs. With timely and adequate funding, we will be able to meet the demands of a phased-in approach to mandatory participation. We are grateful for your ongoing efforts to ensure the Agency has the funding it needs to accomplish its missions.
At SSA, we have a proven performance record and can and will do what we are called upon to do. The Administration supports a strong employer verification system as a critical element of a successful and comprehensive approach to immigration reform. As increasing numbers of employers participate in the current voluntary EEVS, and considering the even greater number that will participate if mandated by Congress, it is crucial that the tools and resources be in place to ensure that the system works efficiently and effectively and that the proper safeguards are built in to guarantee that United States citizens and work authorized noncitizens receive prompt confirmation of their work authorization status.
I want to thank the Chairman and members of the Subcommittee for inviting me here today. On behalf of SSA, I want to thank the Subcommittee for its continuing support for the Agency, for our mission, and for our dedicated workforce.
I will be happy to answer any questions you might have.