Should You Accept a Restricted Social Security Card for Form I-9?

Should You Accept a Restricted Social Security Card for Form I-9?

You are completing Form I-9 for a new employee, and she has presented List B and C documents… a driver’s license and a Social Security card. But the SS card has info printed on it that you’ve never seen before. Here’s what you should do when a new hire presents a restricted Social Security card.

Restricted Social Security Card Not Valid for Form I-9

restricted social security cardThe bottom line is that you should never accept a restricted Social Security card to complete Form I-9. A restricted card is one that includes one of the following notations on its face:

  • “Not valid for employment”
  • “Valid for work only with INS work authorization”
  • “Valid for work only with DHS authorization”

A restricted Social Security card, when presented as a List C document, does not prove work authorization… the very purpose of a List C document. Social Security cards are issued for various reasons not related to employment. In fact, there are three types of Social Security cards:

  • unrestricted cards, issued to individuals who are always authorized to work (U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents);
  • restricted cards, issued to individuals who are in the U.S. temporarily and and may be authorized to work while here;
  • non-work cards, issued for reasons other than employment.

Why You Can't Accept a Restricted Card, Even from Someone Authorized to Work

Documents in List A of the “Lists of Acceptable Documents” show both identity and work authorization. For example, a U.S. citizen can present a U.S. Passport to prove her identity; and those who hold a U.S. Passport are always authorized to work. Likewise, for a Permanent Resident Card, which proves both identity and work authorization for a lawful permanent resident.

List B documents prove identity only. For example, it is possible to be issued a driver’s license in some states and not be authorized to work in the U.S. And that’s why List B documents must be accompanied by a document from List C. List C documents, while they cannot prove identity, do provide evidence of work authorization. An example is a birth certificate showing that the individual was born in the U.S. … or an unrestricted Social Security card.

And, so now, the Form I-9 document rules make sense — A new hire must present a document or combination of certain documents from List A of the “Lists of Acceptable Documents” (which proves identity and work authorization), OR a combination of one document from List B (identity) AND one from List C (work authorization). To accept more than that is called “overdocumentation,” a serious violation of Form I-9 rules.

If the employee presents a List A document, a Social Security card (or other List C document) is not required by Form I-9. In fact, you are not allowed to accept a List C document when you also accept a List A document to complete Section 2. The employee will write her Social Security number in Section 1 of the form. If necessary, you can view the employee’s Social Security card, even a restricted one, for purposes unrelated to Form I-9.

And, as we have learned, if the employee presents a List B document AND a Social Security card as the List C document, the Social Security card MUST be unrestricted.

Look at it this way… you are required to look at documents that prove both identity and work authorization. The restrictions on the Social Security card tell you: “This card doesn’t prove that this person is authorized to work. You need to see another document that proves that.” When you accepted a restricted card with a List B document, the only other document you’ve seen is one that shows identity, not the individuals right to work.

What Can I Do When the Employee Presents a Restricted Social Security Card?

When the new hire presenting a List B document also presents a restricted Social Security card, you are allowed to and, in fact, must reject the restricted Social Security card, since it is not an acceptable Form I-9 document, and ask the employee to choose different documentation from List A or List C of Form I-9.


It’s true that Form I-9 rules can be confusing, but the rule on restricted Social Security cards is clear — you must never accept and describe in Section 2 a restricted Social Security card.

[Source] This page updated 01/25/2019