The USCIS recently announced more than 500,000 employers now use its E-Verify program. The free tool allows employers, small businesses and large corporations alike, to confirm their new employees’ eligibility to work. This is a sharp increase in usage since the program began in 1996. Originally, just 11,474 companies in fiscal year 1996 signed up for E-Verify. That number jumped ten-fold to 111,671 companies in FY 2012.

Why the increase?

In FY 2013, employers’ use of E-Verify increased by almost 500%. Much of the increase can be attributed to improved accuracy since, according to USCIS, 98.8% of work-authorized employees are confirmed instantly or within 24 hours, requiring no further employee or employer action. Additionally, many states have passed their own E-Verify laws and federal contractors and subcontractors are often required to use E-Verify. A useful map of state by state E-Verify requirements is available here .

It would also be hard to ignore the continued enforcement efforts by Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) whereby certain companies have agreed to use E-Verify, conduct self-audits, and submit to an ICE audit as part of settlement agreements for violations or in acts of voluntary compliance under the “IMAGE” program.

An immigration lawyer’s perspective

From an immigration lawyer’s perspective, the increased use of E-Verify means employers are relieved of some of the burden of determining whether an employee’s I-9 Form documentation is authentic. Additionally, E-Verify can act as a safe harbor for employers in many instances.

Businesses wishing to learn more about E-Verify should read USCIS’s Employer Manual located here .