SSN for Foreign Workers

For many newly arrived foreign national employees under non-immigrant visa status, securing an immediate SSN might not be possible. This can present some hiccups, especially when thinking about payroll and employee benefits. However, employers should not delay a non-immigrant visa holder’s start date simply because of an SSN delay. Understanding this process is key for companies onboarding foreign nationals into their workforce.

1. The E-Verify Protocol and SSNs: It’s vital for employers to realize that initiating the Form I-9 employment verification process doesn’t require an SSN immediately. However, there’s a specific protocol to follow with the E-Verify system when an SSN is pending. For instance, if a new hire has applied for but hasn’t yet received their SSN – a common scenario with newly arrived immigrants – employers should attach a note explaining this situation to the employee’s Form I-9 and keep it aside. When the SSN is eventually procured, the employer can then create an E-Verify case using that number. If, by the third business day following the employee’s first work day, the case still can’t be established due to the absence of an SSN, E-Verify will prompt employers to choose the “Awaiting Social Security number” option. Being familiar with these procedures is crucial, especially when using E-Verify.

2. Beware of Legal Hurdles: Pushing back the start date for an employee who already has work authorization (a non-immigrant visa such as an H1B, TN, L1, etc.) until they obtain their SSN could jeopardize the employee’s visa standing and maintenance of status. Additionally, it’s worth noting that denying work to a foreign national who is authorized to work, simply due to SSN absence, may be construed as discriminatory.

3. Tips and Policies from the Social Security Administration (SSA): The SSA’s commitment to preserving the integrity of SSNs means they’ve adopted extra measures when assigning numbers and issuing cards. Consequently, employers might notice delays spanning several weeks or even months when their foreign national employees are in the process of obtaining an SSN. The reason for such delays often stems from the SSA’s practice of directly verifying the applications with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). While many applications are promptly verified, there can be hold-ups. This direct verification, though potentially affecting businesses, is crucial for ensuring SSN authenticity. The SSA provides a fact sheet that delineates employer responsibilities for hiring foreign workers who are still waiting on their SSNs. It’s essential for employers to know that their hired foreign national can work while their SSN application is in progress. Moreover, employers should advise these workers to apply for an SSN and collect detailed personal information from them. When it comes to wage reports, if a worker hasn’t received their SSN in time, employers have specific protocols to follow for both paper and electronic filers. Once the employee provides their SSN, corrections to wage reports can be made using Form W-2c.

4. Connect with Payroll & Benefits Service Providers: It’s not uncommon for foreign nationals to initially lack their SSNs upon arrival. Acknowledging this reality, numerous payroll and benefits firms have adopted policies to cater to these occurrences. However, the specifics of these strategies might differ according to the provider. Hence, proactive engagement with these providers can help employers understand the exact procedures.

In conclusion, although the first reaction might be to hold off on an employee’s commencement until they secure their SSN, this is not best practice. It is important for businesses to understand how to onboard non-immigrant visa holders waiting for the issuance of an SSN in the policies and workflows related to this issue to guarantee a seamless induction for their foreign national hires.

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You may have questions regarding onboarding foreign nationals without an SSN. We invite you to reach out to our team at Richards and Jurusik for detailed guidance and assistance. Our goal is to provide you with the most accurate and up-to-date information to make your immigration process smoother and less stressful. The immigration lawyers at Richards and Jurusik have decades of experience helping people to work and live in the United States. Read some of our hundreds of 5-star client reviews! Contact us today for an assessment of your legal situation.

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