Social Security Administration Issues “No-Match Letters” to More than 570,000 Employers
In March of 2019, the Social Security Administration(SSA) resumed issuing “no-match” letters to employers, a practice it had discontinued in 2012. Re-branded as “Employer Correction Requests”, these “no-match” letters are currently being issued to employers with at least one employee whose name and social security number as listed on the W-2 form does not match information within the SSA database.
The New York Times is reporting that 570,000 employers have received such letters in the past two months alone. As some employers are receiving a single letter corresponding to multiple employees, these no-match letters potentially relate to millions of U.S. employees.
The purpose of these letters is to ensure the accuracy of information related to Social Security retirement, disability, and survivors benefits and to specify actions an employer should take to resolve the discrepancy. The employer is requested to correct the issues within 60 days of the receipt of the “Employer Correction Request.” Unlike previous “no-match” letters, the names of the affected employees are not listed on the face of the letters. Instead, the employer is requested to complete registration with the SSA’s Business Services Online(BSO) and look up a list of affected employees from within an Employer Report Status feature.
The SSA is careful to point out that, “This letter does not address your employee’s work authorization or immigration status“ and cautions the employer against taking any adverse against an employee simply because his or her social security number or name does not match SSA records. In fact, “no-match” letters may frequently be the result of incorrect or outdated information, such as:
- A typographical error, such as a misspelling a name or transposing a number in the social security number;
- A name change due to marriage, divorce, or other reasons;
- Incomplete information on the FormW-2 or W-4; or,
- Middle names being transposed for a last name or first name.
For this reason, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) takes the position that receipt of a “no-match letter” creates an affirmative duty for the employer to investigate the reason for the discrepancy, and ICE warns that failure to follow-up with an employee in some situations could lead to a finding that the employer has constructive knowledge of unauthorized employment.
During the course of a Form I-9 Inspection initiated by ICE, an employer is frequently required to produce copies of any “no-match” letters received from the SSA along with a description of how the discrepancies identified were resolved. If ICE determines that a certain employee is not authorized to work in the U.S. and learns that the employee was the subject of an unresolved “no-match” letter, the employer could face potential civil and criminal liability for continued employment of an unauthorized worker if the employer did not take appropriate steps to resolve the discrepancy on a timely basis.
Therefore, employers should not to ignore “no-match” letters and should take reasonable steps to resolve discrepancies in a prompt, uniform manner, being careful to avoid possible allegations of discrimination.
The Department of Justice’s Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) published useful guidance that can assist employer in appropriately resolving “no-match” letters. Per the IER, employers are encouraged to:
- Recognize that name/SSN no-matches can result because of simple administrative errors.
2. Check reported no-match information against your personnel records.
3. Inform the employee of the no-match notice.
4. Ask the employee to confirm his/her name/SSN reflected in your personnel records.
5. Advise the employee to contact the Social Security Administration (SSA) to correct and/or update his or her SSA records.
6. Give the employee a reasonable period of time to address a reported no-match with the local SSA office.
7. Follow the same procedures for all employees regardless of citizenship status or national origin.
8. Periodically meet with or otherwise contact the employees regardless of citizenship status or national origin.
9. Review any document the employee chooses to offer showing resolution of the no-match.
10. Submit any employer or employee corrections to the SSA.
IER has also provided these warnings:
11. Do not assume the no-match conveys information regarding the employee’s immigration status or actual work authority.
12. Do not use the receipt of a no-match notice alone as a basis to terminate, suspend or take other adverse action against the employee.
13. Do not attempt to immediately reverify the employee’s employment eligibility by requesting the completion of a new Form I-9 based solely on the no-match notice.
14. Do not follow different procedures for different classes of employees based on national origin or citizenship status.
15. Do not require the employee to produce specific I-9 documents to address the no-match.
16. Do not require the employee to provide a written report of SSA verification (as it may not always be obtainable).
Due to these potential pitfalls, employers who receive an “Employer Correction Request” letter or “no-match” letter should immediately contact their Foster immigration attorney for assistance in developing an appropriate strategy to resolve the discrepancies in a timely, and compliant manner.