Verifying your employees are authorized to work in the United States is one step of the new hire paperwork process. You must gather your employees’ names and Social Security numbers (SSNs) so you can fill out essential documents like payroll reports. But if an employee’s SSN and name don’t match the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) records, you may receive a Social Security no-match letter.
The SSA began mailing no-match letters in March of 2019. However, SSN no-match letters aren’t exactly brand new. The SSA used the letters before the government put an end to them in 2012. And now, they’re back.
If you receive an SSN no-match notification in the mail, don’t panic. Instead, read up on what it is, reasons you might receive one, and the steps to take if you do.
What is a Social Security no-match letter?
A Social Security no-match letter is a notification that an employee’s name and SSN don’t match the SSA’s records. The Social Security Administration sends no-match letters to employers. Typically, the SSA distributes no-match letters after an employer files an employee wage report.
An SSA no-match indicates that there is an error in an employer’s or the SSA’s records. In many cases, a Social Security no-match letter has nothing to do with an employee’s immigration status or work authorization.
Employers who receive no-match letters cannot discriminate against their employees by terminating or suspending them. Instead, employers must verify information with their employees.
Reasons for a Social Security no-match
Getting a letter in the mail from the SSA can be nerve-wracking. But again, don’t panic. There are a number of reasons why you might receive a no-match letter.
You may receive an SSA no-match letter if:
- The employee misentered their SSN on Form I-9
- You misentered the employee’s name or SSN
- The SSA staff misentered information
- The employee changed their name
- The employee has a hyphenated name that misaligns reporting
- There is identity theft or fraud
- Your employee is not authorized to work in the U.S.
Clearly, there are a number of reasons you may receive a no-match letter. Be sure to do your due diligence before jumping to conclusions.
What the letter says
The SSA has a sample notice on their website. According to the SSA’s sample, the SSN no-match letter details:
- Information about your business
- Why you are receiving the letter
- What you need to do
- Contact information if you have any questions
The SSA no-match letter also states that you should not take action against your employee based on the letter alone.
Assuming an employee is unauthorized to work in the U.S. based on the letter could be discrimination. If you take action against an employee after receiving the letter, you may face legal consequences.
Take these steps if you receive an SSA no-match letter
Again, do not assume you receive a Social Security no-match letter because your employee is unauthorized to work in the U.S.
After receiving a no-match letter, follow the same steps for all employees, regardless of their national origin or citizenship status.
1. Check the reported information against your records
First, compare the reported no-match information against your records. Did you misenter the employee’s name or SSN on the employment wage report?
You can view the no-match names and Social Security numbers using the SSA’s Business Services Online (BSO). After registering for an account, go to the Employer Report Status section in the BSO system.
If you misentered information when filing the employee wage report, file a corrected report with the SSA. Submit the corrected form within 60 days of receiving the no-match letter.
If you didn’t misenter information on the form, move on to the next step.
2. Confirm your records with your employee
Check with your employee to see if your records match the information they gave you. Verify the spelling of their name and their Social Security number against your records.
If your records are inaccurate, update them and file a corrected report. Otherwise, move on to the next step.
3. Advise the employee to contact the SSA
If your records match the employee’s name and Social Security number, advise them to contact a local SSA office to correct or update their SSA records.
From here, it is your employee’s responsibility to match Social Security number with name. Ask your employee to let you know if they resolve the no-match.
4. Wait for results
The United States Department of Justice recommends that you give your employee a reasonable period of time to address and resolve no-match information.
Keep in mind that resolving no-match issues can take time. According to the Department of Justice, you may be waiting up to 120 days for the SSA to resolve the no-match situation.
How to avoid getting a letter
To avoid getting a Social Security no-match letter, you can take a couple of actions:
- Verify an employee’s name and Social Security number match the SSA’s records
- Double check your records when filling out employment wage reports
You can use the SSA’s Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS) to verify that an employee’s information matches the SSA’s records. The SSNVS is an online program that immediately notifies you of accurate or inaccurate information.
User error is a significant reason employers receive no-match letters. When gathering employee information, verify that you write down their name and SSN correctly. And, compare your personnel records to employee wage reports before filing them.
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This is not intended as legal advice; for more information, please click here.