By: Bruce Buchanan, Sebelist Buchanan Law

As previously stated, the Social Security Administration (SSA) resumed issuance of Social Security No-Match Letters in April 2019. The initial batch of no-match letters appear to be focused on the restaurant industry. In early April, New York restaurants reported receipt of no-match letters while in late April to early May, Tennessee restaurants reported receipt of no-match letters. Although the no-match letters have likely not been issued nationwide, other parts of the U.S. have likely received them.

The no-match letters are going to businesses whom submitted wage and tax statements (Form W-2) that contain name and Social Security number (SSN) combinations that do not match SSA’s records.

There are a number of reasons why reported names and SSNs may not agree with SSA’s records. It could happen for a variety of legitimate reasons, including a misspelled name or SSN with a transposed number; a change in the worker’s name due to marriage or divorce; incomplete information on a W-4 or W-2; or use of compound names which are not perfectly aligned in the government databases. Of course, mismatches could also be due to the use of false SSNs.

Although one should not assume a no-match letter equals an unauthorized or undocumented worker, the former Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) and its successor, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), have told employers that receipt of one of these notifications creates an affirmative duty to investigate the discrepancy. And an employer’s failure to follow-up with an employee could lead to a finding of constructive knowledge of unauthorized employment.

However, the Immigrant and Employee Rights Section (IER) of the Department of Justice, who is responsible for ensuring that employers don’t go too far in their employment verification duties, has stated mere receipt of a no-match letter, without any other evidence, does not give rise to constructive knowledge that an employee is unauthorized to work. Doing so may be considered an unfair documentary practice or evidence of discrimination based on citizenship, national original, or immigration status.

What happens if your employee does not respond to the letter or otherwise act to resolve the issue? Unfortunately, there is no perfect answer. But HR should not bury their head in the sand. Rather, it should proactively work to resolve the problem. Remember if one gets a letter consult with your immigration attorney before taking any action against an employee.

If you want to know more information on issues involving employer immigration compliance, I recommend you read The I-9 and E-Verify Handbook, a book I co-authored with Greg Siskind, and available at