Frequently Asked Questions
What is E-Verify?
E-Verify is a web-based employment authorization verification system, operated by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), part of the Homeland Security (DHS), in partnership with the Social Security Administration (SSA). E-Verify checks information electronically against DHS and SSA records to verify employment eligibility, regardless of citizenship or immigration status.
Why is Northwestern participating in E-Verify?
The federal government requires that all federal contracts awarded on or after September 8, 2009, with certain characteristics, contain a Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) clause requiring federal contractors to use E-Verify. Northwestern University, as a recipient of federal contracts, is a federal contractor, subject to this requirement. Today, virtually all federal contracts awarded to Northwestern meet the characteristics requiring the FAR E-Verify clause, which for prime contracts include a value above $150,000, a period of performance of 120 days or more, and at least some contract work performed in the United States.
Which Northwestern employees are subject to employment verification through E-Verify?
Northwestern made the decision in 2009 to E-Verify its entire workforce, including all existing employees, as well as new hires and rehires.
Some universities only use E-Verify for faculty, staff and students who perform substantial duties on qualifying federal contracts, why does Northwestern E- Verify its entire workforce?
In September 2009, when the federal government began requiring that federal contractors use E-Verify, university employers with federal contracts were required to elect to either E-Verify their entire workforce, or only those employees working on federal contracts requiring E-Verify. Northwestern elected to E-Verify its entire workforce for a number of reasons, including the recognized administrative an logistical efficiencies of administering a campus-wide E-Verify program, and improved regulatory compliance realized by eliminating the need to track individual employees working on federal contracts at all times. The decision also addressed the University’s operational need to replace a number of I-9 records that had been previously destroyed, and it was also aligned with the University strategic goal of increasing its federal research funding.
Are employees who work on a qualifying contract for a minimal amount of time, or intermittently, subject to E-Verify?
Yes, the rule does not exempt employees based on the intermittent nature of the work or the length of time spent performing the work. Therefore, student employees, Federal Work Study students and casual employees are all subject to E-Verify.
What happens if my previous employer ran my information through E-Verify? Must I do it again?
Yes, under the rule, each federal contractor is required to enter the worker’s identity and employment information into the E-Verify system following completion of the Form I-9 at the time of hire, even if a previous employer using E- Verify had previously verified the employee’s employment eligibility.
Can Northwestern change its current practice of E-Verifying all new hires/rehires, and instead only E-Verify those individuals working on federal contracts?
The regulatory framework around E-Verify is extremely complex. It is the University’s understanding that Northwestern’s 2009 decision to E-Verify its entire workforce has effectively “locked in” the institution’s current E-Verify enrollment practice for as long as the University continues to be a federal contractor (or subcontractor) on any federal contracts with the Federal Acquisition Regulation (FAR) E-Verify clause. The University cannot change its current E-Verify practices until all of the University’s federal contracts and subcontracts that contain the FAR clause requiring E-Verify are terminated or completed.
Has the University confirmed its understanding of its E-Verify obligation?
The University reviewed this matter in depth and has submitted written questions to USCIS to confirm the scope of its E-Verify obligations. USCIS confirmed that “Once an employer enrolls and selects that they wish to verify all existing employees as well as new hires when they enroll as a federal contractor with a FAR E-Verify Clause, they cannot at a later date change that to say they only want to run cases on employees working on federal contracts. They may only terminate their account when they have no current federal contracts with a FAR clause.” Therefore, Northwestern by virtue of its 2009 decision to E-Verify its entire workforce, is bound to continue its current E-Verify practices while its federal contracts are ongoing.
How many of the University’s current research projects receive funding from federal contracts subject to the FAR E-Verify clause?
The University has more than 200 ongoing research projects that are being funded by federal contracts subject to the FAR E-Verify clause. In some instances, the contract funding will run through at least 2023. The number of research projects funded by federal contracts varies each academic year, but in 2017-18, there were more than 50 new projects funded with federal contracts, and the University received approximately $25 million in federal contract funding.
Why not terminate the University’s federal contract funding?
The University’s federal contracts and subcontracts provide funding (e.g., salary funds) for faculty, staff and students in a number of Northwestern schools, research centers and institutes. Any decision to forego federal research funding from federal contracts with the FAR E-Verify clause would likely result in the loss of employment for faculty and staff who work within fields that routinely rely on these funding sources. Not only do salaried faculty and staff rely on these funding sources to conduct important scholarship and research, but students as well depend on this ongoing research activity in furtherance of their academic pursuits.