An individual who has applied for a Social Security Number but is subject to administrative delays by USCIS/SSA may lawfully begin working until he or she receives the SSN, as long as they can produce other documents evincing work eligibility (See Form I-9 for a listing). The following excerpts and supporting documents are provided for further information.
“Do I need to have a number before I start working?
do not require you to have a Social Security number before you start to
work, but the Internal Revenue Service requires employers to report
wages using the Social Security number. While you wait for your Social
Security number, your employer can use a letter from us stating that
you applied for a number.”
– From Social Security Administration SSA Publication No. 05-10107 – April 2003
fact, it is an I-9 violation for a US employer to specifically require an SSN prior
to the employee starting work.
“There is no federal law administered by any federal
agency which prohibits the hiring of a person based solely on the fact
that the person does not have a Social Security Number (SSN).
Similarly, there is no federal law which prohibits the making of a
payment to a person based solely on the fact that the person does not
have an SSN.
AILA’s SSA Liaison Committee Clarifies Misconception on SSNs, Issues Reminders and Requests Member Feedback
AILA’s SSA liaison committee notes that contrary to popular belief, neither
immigration law nor federal tax law requires an individual to possess an SSN to
begin working. IRCA does not require an employee to present an SSN Card but,
rather, lists the Card as a possible “List C” document of work authorization.
Similarly, the Internal Revenue Code does not require an employee to possess an
SSN to begin working. It requires only that an application for an SSN be made
within seven days of commencing employment for taxable wages. 26 USC Section
6011; 26 CFR Section 31.6011(b)-2. Usually, the real obstacle to commencing
employment is the software of a third-party payroll preparer, which cannot
generate a paycheck without the number. Under these circumstances, if permitted
by its system, the preparer can use a “dummy” SSN solely to generate a paycheck,
provided the actual SSN or other required information is provided on the
information returns at the time of filing. Further instructions are on the SSA
website at www.ssa.gov/employer/.
The final report of the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States (9/11 Commission), issued on July 22, 2004, states that “today more than 9 million people are in the United States outside the legal immigration system.” As such, the 9/11 Commission recommended that standards be set for the “issuance of birth certificates and sources of identification, such as driver’s licenses,” as “all but one of the 9/11 hijackers acquired some form of U.S. identification document, some by fraud. Acquisition of these forms of identification would have assisted them in boarding commercial flights, renting cars, and other necessary activities.” The REAL ID Act of 2005 was signed into law (P.L. 109-13) on May 11, 2005 which, among other things establishes standards for the issuance of drivers’ licenses and identification cards.
Past events have prompted a series of questions and debate concerning states’ issuance of driver’s licenses to illegal aliens. Proponents contend that allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses is a matter of public safety. Licensed drivers know the rules of the road and can buy insurance, thus making streets safer for everyone. Conversely, opponents argue that allowing illegal immigrants to obtain driver’s licenses compromises national security. Moreover, opponents contend that permitting illegal aliens to obtain driver’s licenses encourages such individuals to remain in the United States illegally. Thus, opponents contend that illegal immigrants should not be rewarded with such privileges. This report will briefly summarize the policy arguments related to states’ issuance of driver’s licenses to undocumented or illegal aliens. In addition, this report includes a state-by-state summary of the state laws on issuing licenses to immigrants. This report will be updated as developments warrant.