There are two instances in which an employee may present you with their Social Security card: for payroll purposes and for I-9 purposes. But, while you can ask that employees show you their Social Security card for payroll purposes, you cannot tell them to use their Social Security card for I-9 purposes.
Requesting the card for payroll reasons
The IRS says that employers must obtain the name and Social Security number for each employee and enter them on the employee’s Form W-2. According to the IRS, “You should ask the employee to show you his or her Social Security card.”
While the IRS does not say you should “require” that employees show you the card, you can certainly request that they do so. If the employee provides you with the card, you can make a photocopy of it.
Asking to see employees’ Social Security cards and then recording their name and SSN directly from the card is a good payroll practice because it helps prevent SSN mismatches.
However, there’s a way to verify that employees’ names and SSNs mirror what’s in the Social Security Administration’s database, without you needing to see their Social Security cards. Simply go to the Social Security Administration’s “Social Security Number Verification Service” webpage to do the verification online. You will receive fast results.
Form I-9 restrictions
You cannot request or require that employees produce specific documents — including their Social Security card — for I-9 purposes. According to the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, “Your employee must be allowed to choose what documentation to present from either List A or List C.”
An unrestricted Social Security card is an acceptable List C document. (List C documents are used to establish employment authorization.) An employee who opts to present a document from List C must also produce a document from List B, which is used to establish identity (e.g., a driver’s license).
If the employee chooses to use his or her Social Security card for employment authorization purposes, he or she must show you the card.
Unless you participate in E-Verify, you do not have to make copies of I-9 documents. However, some employers choose to keep copies for legal defense reasons — in which case, copies should be kept for all employees to avoid breaking antidiscrimination laws.
Do not accept a Social Security card that has restrictive wording, such as:
- Not valid for employment.
- Valid for work only with INS work authorization.
- Valid for work only with DHS authorization.
If an employee provides you with a restricted Social Security card, tell him or her that it is not an acceptable I-9 document, and that he or she should select a different document from the Form I-9 list.