The Social Security Administration (SSA) has resumed issuing “no-match letters” to employers after a hiatus of several years. Employers should know that these correction request notices can trigger immigration enforcement actions. Enforcement actions have substantially increased under the Trump administration.
SSA uses no-match letters to inform employers that discrepancies exist between its records and the name and Social Security Number (SSN) that employers submit on Form W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement) to the IRS.
Many legitimate reasons could explain the discrepancies. For instance, SSA entered the information incorrectly, a misspelled or transposed name, an unreported name change from a marriage or divorce, or identity theft.
Still, immigration enforcement officials could use the discrepancy to launch an I-9 inspection and identify individuals who do not have legal status or are not authorized to work. Form I-9 verifies the identity and ability of an employee—both a U.S. citizen and noncitizen—to legally work in the U.S. Every employee on his or her first day of work must fill out an I-9 for his or her employer.
What Should I Do?
Employers who receive such a no-match notice must clear up the discrepancies within 60 days.
Previously, SSA listed the SSNs in question in the no-match letters the agency sent to employers. Now, SSA requires employers to register online through its business services system to see which employee’s information needs to be corrected.
Once the affected employee(s) are identified, you should:
- Check the information contained in the letter against your personnel records. If you are able to correct the error with this information, follow the instructions online to make the correction using Form W-2C.
- If you are unable to correct the information using personnel records, iInform the affected employee about the no-match letter. Ask the employee to confirm the spelling of his or her name and SSN.
- Advise the employee to contact SSA to correct or update his or her SSA record.
- Follow-up with the employee about his or her efforts to resolve the discrepancy.
- Submit any employer or employee corrections to the SSA.
What Should I Not Do?
Employers should remember a discrepancy does not necessarily mean that your employee intentionally provided you with the wrong information. Therefore, you should NOT:
- Use the no-match notice as the basis to lay off, suspend, fire or take any other action against the employee that violates state or federal law.
- Make the employee complete a new Form I-9 based only on the no-match letter.
- Require the employee to produce documents to address the no-match notice.
- Follow different procedures for employees based on national origin or citizenship status.
- Require the employee to provide verification of a resolution with the SSA.
Precautions to Take
As a precaution, we recommend employers establish and follow written policies and procedures for dealing with no-match letters. We also recommend employers document their responses.
During an I-9 inspection, immigration enforcement officers usually request records concerning no-match letters and evidence of how the employer responded to the letters. Therefore, we recommend that employers regularly conduct a full internal I-9 audit. In a previous blog post, we discussed what an internal audit should entail and other compliance issues to keep in mind.
When to Get Help
If an employee is unable to clear up the discrepancy or takes no action, the employer should contact an immigration lawyer. Civil fines and criminal penalties exist for employing an unauthorized worker both knowingly as well as when the employer “should have known” based on available information.
The Alcorn Immigration Law team stands ready to help. Reach out to us with any no-match letter or I-9 inspection issues or concerns.