There are several concerns that new employers may have when onboarding a foreign national employee such as:

  • Delaying an employee’s start date until they receive their Social Security Number
  • Payment and Benefits Enrollment without a Social Security Number
  • Timeframe for Obtaining a Social Security Number

While the following information is not related to the legal service we provide related to immigration cases, we do see the following questions frequently and can provide some general information.  This information is not to be construed as legal advice and employers are encouraged to discuss related issues with their appropriate, tax, payroll or other appropriate resources. 

For a number of reasons, a newly arrived Foreign National employee may not receive their Social Security Number (“SSN”) from the Social Security Administration by the time they are scheduled to begin work in the U.S. This tends to make things more complicated for employers payroll and benefit administrators therefore this information mainly pertains to the payroll and benefit issues that can arise when onboarding your new foreign national employee.

Can employers postpone an employee’s start date until they receive their Social Security Number?

In the context of onboarding employees, particularly foreign nationals, it’s essential to address the question of whether employers can postpone an employee’s start date until they obtain their Social Security Number (SSN).

The answer hinges on several crucial factors:

  • Form I-9 Verification: In general, an SSN is not required to complete the Form I-9 employment authorization verification process. However, there’s an important exception—employers participating in E-Verify.
  • E-Verify Compliance: For employers utilizing E-Verify, the rules explicitly prohibit delaying an employee’s start date solely because they do not yet have an SSN. E-Verify guidance instructs employers to allow the employee to commence work as initially planned. The Form I-9 should be completed promptly, and the entry into the E-Verify system should occur once the Social Security Number is obtained.
  • Visa Status Implications: For employees who have acquired work authorization benefits through various visa statuses, delaying their start date until they secure their Social Security Number could potentially jeopardize their visa status. It’s crucial to adhere to the originally scheduled start date.
  • Anti-Discrimination Considerations: Postponing work and pay for foreign national employees with work authorization solely due to SSN acquisition may be viewed as a discriminatory employment practice. Such actions could expose the employer to legal liability.

In summary, employers should be aware that, in most cases, they cannot delay an employee’s start date based on SSN availability, particularly when participating in E-Verify. Ensuring compliance with visa regulations and anti-discrimination laws is essential during the onboarding process.

How Can Employers Enroll an Employee in Benefit Plans or Process Payroll Without an SSN?

Payroll and benefit providers have established processes to accommodate employees who have applied for, but not yet received, their SSN. While these processes may vary among providers, employers should contact their respective providers for guidance.

Filing Wage Reports for Employees Without SSNs

The Social Security Administration offers guidance on how to file wage reports for employees without SSNs, providing essential resources for employers facing this situation.

Timeframe for Obtaining an SSN

Newly arrived foreign national employees cannot apply for an SSN until they arrive in the U.S. Once on U.S. soil, they must apply in person at their local Social Security Office. Under ideal circumstances, the turnaround time to receive an SSN card should be approximately three weeks from the application date. If it takes longer, employers may need to follow up.

Can the SSN Application Process Be Expedited?

The Social Security Administration does not offer an expedited process for foreign nationals on non-immigrant visas.

What to Do If It Takes Longer Than 4 Weeks for the SSN Card

Delays in SSN issuance may sometimes stem from the SAVE database, which verifies the status of foreign-born benefit applicants. Errors in the database are typically caused by mis-keyed information from the SSN application. Once Social Security contacts SAVE to verify eligibility, a case is created in the SAVE system. Employers or employees can monitor the case status through the Case Check tool. Once resolved, Social Security generally takes ten business days to issue the SSN.

In conclusion, while SSN-related concerns can complicate the onboarding process for foreign national employees, understanding the legal and practical aspects is crucial. Employers should generally avoid delaying start dates based on SSN availability, comply with visa regulations, and ensure adherence to anti-discrimination laws. Employers are encouraged to consult relevant tax, payroll, or legal professionals for specific concerns and questions.