No SSN? No Problem: On-Boarding Newly Arrived Foreign National Employees without Social Security Numbers

Wednesday, July 20, 2016 - 1:15pm

For a number of reasons, a newly arrived Foreign National employee may not receive their Social Security Number (“SSN”) from the Social Security Administration by the time they are scheduled to begin work in the U.S. While this may make things a little more complicated for payroll and benefits, employers can, and should, allow work-authorized employees to start before their Social Security Number (“SSN”) is received. This is a common occurrence with newly arrived foreign national employees and employers should be aware of the following:

  1. Employers should not delay an employee’s start date until the Social Security Number is received.

    An SSN is not required to complete the Form I-9 employment authorization verification UNLESS the employer participates in E-Verify, however E-Verify rules specifically prohibit employers from delaying an employee’s start date until a Social Security Number is received. E-Verify instructs employers to allow the employee to start as planned, complete the Form I-9 timely and enter wait to enter the case in E-Verify once the Social Security Number is received. Additionally, for employees who have obtained work authorization benefits through various visa statuses, delaying an employee’s start date until they receive their Social Security Number, rather than when they were scheduled to begin work could jeopardize that visa status. Finally, delaying work for pay for work authorized foreign nationals until a social security number is received may be considered a discriminatory employment practice and expose the employer to liability.
  2. The Social Security Administration has a helpful webpage on how to file wage reports for employees without SSNs.

  3. Payroll and Employee Benefit Plan Providers have a process for how to accommodate pay and enrollment for employees who have applied for, but not yet received, their Social Security Number.

    This is a common occurrence for newly arrived foreign nationals, and, as such, most payroll and benefit providers have developed processes to accommodate this. Each provider’s process may vary somewhat so employers should contact their providers to determine what those processes are.

While it may initially appear easier, for purposes of payroll processing and benefits enrollment, just to delay an employee's start date they receive their Social Security Number, doing so may cause many more problems than it solves.