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 are 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).

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. But you must not describe it on the form when the employee has presented a List A document.

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 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.

This page updated 04/08/2019