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

As noted, Social Security cards are issued for several different reasons — to pay taxes; to receive certain government benefits; because of the cardholder’s relationship with another person; and other reasons. But not everyone who is issued a SS card is also authorized to work in the U.S., and most non-citizens are authorized to work for a limited time.

A Social Security card will be issued with a restriction to “aliens authorized to work” because:

  1. A work-authorized non-citizen’s eligibility can expire.
  2. Social Security cards do not have an expiration date.
  3. The cards are not as closely regulated as are work authorization documents.

Paraphrased, the restriction means “this SS cardholder’s work eligibility is temporary. We have issued him/her a different document to prove eligibility to work. This person can complete Form I-9 only if s/he can present that document to prove it.” Usually, that will be a List A document, although you cannot tell the new hire what document to present.

What should 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.


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Status: This page updated 11/21/2022