Ask the Experts: Legal Names Versus Married Names on Social Security Cards

Question: For Form I-9 purposes, can we accept a new employee’s Social Security card that shows a maiden name rather than her married name?

Answer: The quick answer is yes. The Social Security card has the individual’s legal name. She must complete the Form W-4 and Form I-9 with her legal name (as listed on the Social Security card). If, on its face, the card reasonably appears to be genuine and relate to the person presenting it, then you must accept it. Additionally, a signature on the card is not required for it to be valid, so long as the Social Security card does not state ““NOT VALID FOR EMPLOYMENT,” “VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH INS AUTHORIZATION,” or “VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION.” Additionally, metal or plastic reproductions of a Social Security card are not acceptable for Form I-9 purposes.

Of note, an employer should not use the Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS) to audit an employee’s Form I-9. According to the SSNVS handbook, any notification about a mismatch makes no statement about an employee’s immigration status. Rather, it simply indicates an error in either the employer’s records or Social Security Administration’s records and should not be used as a basis to take adverse action against an employee. In other words, the SSNVS is not intended to be used to verify employment authorization in connection with the Form I-9 process.