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Ask the Hotline | The Return of the No-Match Letter

June 4, 2019
 
Question – I recently heard that the government is sending out Social Security No-Match letters again. Is that true? 
 
Answer – Yes. 
 
The Social Security Administration (SSA) has mailed “no-match letters” to more than 570,000 employers since March of this year, focusing on the hospitality, construction and agriculture industries. 
 
As many employers may recall from years gone by, the no-match letters do not require an employer to terminate an employee but rather to inform the employee of the no-match status of the employee’s social security number. 
 
The reality is that once an employer notifies the employee of the SSN problem, the employee often quits, (fails to appear at work for the next shift without notifying you). And while employers may feel conflicted about losing workers, especially if they are good employees, an employer must obey the law as contained in the letter. 
 
According to some estimates, there were almost 8 million undocumented immigrants in the labor force in 2016. Many of them have relied on purchased, stolen, copied, shared or made-up Social Security numbers to obtain work.
 
Social Security began to send no-match letters during the George W. Bush administration. The practice ceased under the Obama administration after the government was sued over the issue. The new round of no-match letters appears to be based in the Trump administration’s focus on undocumented workers.
 
While there are many possible explanations for a Social Security number “no-match’” - typographical errors, clerical mistakes and name changes – the most common is that the worker is undocumented.
 
The Bush administration used its “no-match” program to hold companies liable for employing unauthorized workers by imposing stiff penalties on them. 
 
In response, many groups, including American Civil Liberties Union, the United States Chamber of Commerce, unions and trade groups sued to stop its implementation arguing that the regulation placed a heavy burden on employers. That lawsuit prompted the Obama Administration to drop the focus on no-match letters and shift to I-9 audit enforcement. 
 
The current no-match effort is designed to avoid the earlier mistakes by not threatening employers with enforcement action or penalties.
 
What to do?
 
SSA announced last summer that it would start sending no-match letters to employers who had submitted at least one W-2 form with a name and Social Security number combination that did not match its records.
 
The notices direct employers to take steps to correct information online within 60 days. Since most employers just began receiving no-match letters during the past month or so, they still are within the 60-day window for updating their records. 
 
The letters instruct employers to register online to view the names of workers with discrepancies, actions that create an electronic record.
 
It states, “IMPORTANT: This letter does not imply that you or your employee intentionally gave the government wrong information about the employer’s name or SSN. This letter does not address your employee’s work authorization or immigration status.”
 
But it is clear the employer must take the necessary steps to correct the discrepancy. 
 
I-9 Audits on the Increase
 
Separately, Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), has also increased worksite enforcement by more than a factor of three. ICE initiated 5,981 I-9 audits in Fiscal Year 2018, compared to 1,360 the previous year. And with increased audits comes the risk of more fines for employers whose I-9s are out of compliance. ICE issued fines of more than one hundred million dollars during Fiscal year 2017 for incorrect, incomplete or otherwise defective I-9 forms. 
 
So review your existing I-9 forms to ensure accuracy and takes steps to correct any mistakes or missing I-9’s. There are many helpful resources on the USCIS website
 
If you have questions about no match letters, Form I-9s or other immigration-related matters, please contact the AIM HR solutions group.
 
AIM members with questions about this or any other HR-related issue may call the AIM Employer Hotline at 1-800-470-6277.
 
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