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May 2, 2019
Employers who have dedicated resources to developing a robust I-9 compliance program, and who also follow trends related to identification documents to prevent fraud, should pay attention to a new area of concern — interim driver’s licenses.
Many states have enhanced the security of their driver’s licenses and identification cards over the past several years. These enhancements consist of new security features, printing, holograms, and tamper resistant formats. Some states periodically enhance the security features of their documents, and others are changing procedures to comply with the federal REAL ID Act. Despite the well-intended enhancements, some changes have actually made identification documents more susceptible to fraud for the purposes of Form I-9 completion. Specifically, some states have turned to issuing paper interim identification documents deferring to mailing the original document to the address of record. This is done for several possible reasons. First, it ensures that the recipient likely resides at the listed address. Second, this process has allowed some states to centralize their production of identification documents, allowing for more consistent products, saving money given the need for less production equipment, and allowing for greater security by housing secure documents in fewer locations. Finally, the removal of document production from individual state offices or motor vehicle locations can reduce the opportunity for employees to be subject to bribery attempts and corruption.
The Vulnerability of Interim Documents
One vulnerability of issuing interim documents is that they are often printed on plain copy paper. Some may have a simple security watermark, but beyond that, there are few true security features on many such documents. These interim documents can be easily altered using an application such as Adobe Acrobat along with a printer and scanner. For example, an interim document can easily have the photo replaced by scanning the document, substituting the photo, and then printing out the new document.
While intended to prevent fraud and identity theft, sharing or misuse, the issuance of paper interim identity cards, with little to no security features, has unfortunately led to more fraud in the I-9 Form process.
As part of the I-9 process, employees must present certain documents that show their identity to prove that they are authorized to legally work in the U.S. This can be accomplished by presenting either one document which accomplishes both requirements (i.e. a U.S. Passport, Green Card), or by presenting two documents, one of which establishes identity (i.e. State Driver’s License), and another which establishes legal authorization to work in the U.S. (i.e. a U.S. Birth Certificate).
It is widely known in human resource circles that state identification documents are the most commonly presented in the I-9 process. These documents are most often presented with an unrestricted Social Security Card. Paper interim state identification documents, in most states, are considered valid documents, which cannot ever be reverified, for the purposes of completion of an I-9 Form, as explained below. That is why security and fraud vulnerabilities are so relevant.
In states that issue paper interim documents, if certain data is present on the interim document, it is considered a valid List “B” document for the purpose of I-9 completion and cannot be reverified. The following language is offered by the Department of Homeland Security regarding acceptable List “B” documents that are authorized for completion of the I-9 Form:
An ID card can be issued by any state (including the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Guam, American Samoa, and the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands) or local government. It is acceptable if it contains a photograph or other identifying information, such as name, date of birth, gender, height, eye color, and address. Some states may place restrictive notations on their ID cards. For Form I-9 purposes, these cards may be acceptable.
A number of the interim state documents that are issued on paper contain the above required photo, and biographic data, most of which are also on the permanent document that is mailed to the residence. That is the reason these documents are acceptable for I-9s and that they are not considered receipts and never need to be reverified.
Another point of note is that only the employee may select which documents they present as part of Section 2 of the I-9 Form. An employer is absolutely not permitted to mandate that a certain document be presented, and they cannot ask for any additional evidence or documents beyond the authorized documents on the list. In other words, if an employee presents an interim paper state identification card that appears to be reasonably valid and relates to the employee (photo reasonably matches), then the employer may not ask for another identity document. Further, the employer is barred from asking the employee to present the permanent identification card when it is received in the mail if the previously mentioned requirements are met for the interim identification card.
The Trouble with E-Verify
Another area for consideration is the federal government’s E-Verify system which is vulnerable to identity misuse. E-Verify runs primarily on a biographic check of name, date of birth and Social Security number. Its sole biometric functionality occurs when certain federal documents are presented. Specifically, U.S. Passports (and Passport Cards), Permanent Resident Cards, and Employment Authorization Cards. These documents trigger a photo-matching requirement which mandates that the employer match the photo in E-Verify with the document that was presented by the employee. Since the vast majority of E-Verify case submissions are for state-issued identity documents, the photo matching functionality is not triggered. In effect, someone who has the name, date of birth and Social Security number of a U.S. citizen can have that information placed onto a paper-based interim state identity document, which is very easy to do using Acrobat or other application, and then also create a fake U.S. birth certificate. The use of a U.S. birth certification is extremely difficult for an employer to verify since there are so many entities in the U.S. that can issue birth certificates. This data will easily pass E-Verify because the data will match in the check with the Social Security Administration and then, consequently, there will not be a photo matching requirement.
While it’s understandable that I-9 regulations were issued to ensure individuals can obtain employment by using a variety of documents, there seems to be a disconnect between the Department of Homeland Security and the states regarding what is and is not a permanent and secure identity document.
Take-Aways for Employers
What can employers do to mitigate risk? In our experience, training and tools are your best first line of defense in identifying those intent on defeating the I-9 and E-Verify processes — be it through altered documents or borrowed or stolen identities. We have developed a number of fraud detection tools and customized training programs to assist employers that focus on:
The well-prepared human resources team is best positioned to hire with confidence.
Bill Riley is a senior managing director in the Washington, D.C. office of Guidepost Solutions. Mr. Riley spent 20 years as a Special Agent with U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement and oversees due diligence, banking compliance, immigration compliance, and trade and border services investigations for Guidepost Solutions. Mr. Riley has worked on engagements in more than 20 countries. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.