Industry News, Compliance, Administrative

Watch Out for "Restricted" Social Security Cards for Form I-9 Purposes

December 18, 2019

Summary Info: Businesses must have all employees fill out a Form I-9 to ensure they are eligible to work in the United States. A Social Security card can be part of the proof, but not in all instances. Click through to avoid making a serious mistake.

Although Form I-9 has changed through the years, its basic purpose has remained the same: to make sure those applying for work at a U.S. company are legally eligible to work in the United States. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services does give some flexibility in how job candidates prove both their identity and employment authorization. Documents in "List A" can prove both, so a candidate who shows a current U.S. passport, for example, doesn't have to show anything else.

Those who don't have "List A" documents can show one document from "List B," which establishes identity, and one from "List C," which establishes employment authorization. A common List C document is a Social Security card. However, as a recent government announcement has clarified, that Social Security card must be unrestricted.

What does that mean? Many employers may not have even seen a restricted card, but some cards will have one of the following restrictions entered on the front:


There is nothing inherently illegal about such a card, but it cannot be used to satisfy the authorization requirement for Form I-9.

However, let's say the candidate instead has one of the six other List C documents or one of the six List A documents. In that case, the question of the Social Security card is moot. Indeed, the form is very clear that employers cannot specify which documents it would like as proof. As long as candidates provide the right document or combination of documents, the employer cannot say, "I also want to see your Social Security card for I-9 purposes to make sure it's unrestricted."

However, if a candidate does show a restricted Social Security card and cannot present an acceptable substitute, you must reject them.

The E-Verify system has more information on its site. And Form I-9, available in PDF on the USCIS site, also reminds both employers and candidates that Social Security cards must be unrestricted.

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