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What Immigrant Workers Should Know About No-Match Letters

Authored By: D.C. Bar Pro Bono Center

FAQ

I have heard that employers will soon be notified when an employee's name does not match the Social Security number in the employer's records.  Is this true?

  • Yes. The Social Security Administration has always required employers to have a valid Social Security number on record for each employee, but there are new guidelines for enforcing this rule.
  • Your employer should be preparing W-2 forms each year to report your earnings to the Internal Revenue Service (you get a copy to send in your taxes). If the name on your W-2 form does not match the name for the Social Security number you have on record with your employer, your employer may receive a "no match" letter.

What will happen if my employer gets a 'no match' letter for me? Can I be fired right away?

  • You cannot be fired right away.
  • What happens next depends on why your name and Social Security number don't match.
  • If your name and Social Security number don't match because of a mistake (for example, if the name on your W-4 form is "Jon Smith", but the name on record for your Social Security number is "Jonathan Smith") your employer must give you 90 days to fix the problem with the Social Security Administration. Click here for information about how to do this. Click here to find the Social Security Administration field office closest to you, or call 1-800-772-1213.
  • If your employer gets a "no match" letter because you have been using a Social Security number that does not belong to you, you have 90 days to get a valid Social Security number. Click here for information about how to apply for a Social Security number.
  • If you cannot get a valid Social Security number because you do not have permission to work in the United States, your employer cannot legally continue to employ you.

 

Click here for more information.

My name and Social Security number don't match.  Will my employer receive a 'no match' letter for me?

  • Not necessarily. Not all employers will get "no match" letters, even if your name and Social Security number don?t match.
  • First, you may not technically be an employee. You may be an independent contractor. An independent contractor is someone who accepts jobs, but has the right to control how he or she does the work. Some examples include:
    • Someone who owns his or her own business.
    • An electrician hired to install wiring in a new building.
    • A house-cleaner who cleans several different houses each week.
    • Someone who provides childcare for several different families on different days each week.
  • Second, your employer will probably not get a "no match" letter if you work for a business with less than 10 employees. So if you work by yourself, or with just one or two other people, your employer is very unlikely to get a "no match" letter.

What if my employer gets a 'no match' letter for me, and I fix the problem with the Social Security Administration, and I still get fired?

  • Your employer cannot use the "no match" letter as an excuse to fire you for an illegal reason, such as racial discrimination, or because you came to the U.S. from another country.
  • If you think this has happened to you, you may be able to sue your employer for discrimination. Click here for a list of organizations that may be able to help you.

If my employer gets a 'no match' letter for me, and I have been using a Social Security number that doesn't belong to me, can I be charged with a crime?

  • You should understand that there are both civil and criminal penalties for knowingly using false documents. However, the Social Security Administration has privacy laws that prevent it sharing information, like "no match" letters, outside the agency, which means they will not start criminal investigations related to the use of false Social Security numbers.

If my employer gets a 'no match' letter for me, and I am in the U.S. illegally, will the Department of Homeland Security find out?

  • The Social Security Administration does not share information from the "no match" letters with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). The only way DHS would learn about the letter is if they did a workplace raid. Once at the workplace, they could ask for "no match" information.
Last Review and Update: Sep 22, 2011