While it’s unclear whether the resumption will harm employers—the government didn't even explain why no-match letters have returned—prudence suggests now is a good time to make sure your employment eligibility verification processes are in good shape.
No-match letters became a political flashpoint in 2007 and 2008, as concerns about illegal immigration simmered. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security favored using no-match letters to flag undocumented workers who might use phony Social Security numbers to gain clearance to work in the U.S.
Critics feared that would lead to wholesale firings for anyone whose name appeared on a no-match letter.
The new no-match letters, which were expected to go in the mail this month, reinforce that a no-match letter alone should not trigger any kind of adverse action against the employee.
Language in the new no-match letters tells employers that they need not respond to the letters. However, the letters do ask employers to:
- Check their records to see if there is a discrepancy in the records submitted to SSA.
- Ask the employee to check his or her records to determine if the information was accurately recorded and reported.
- Instruct the employee to contact the SSA to resolve any discrepancy.
- Provide the employee a reasonable amount of time to resolve the discrepancy.
- Document efforts to resolve the matter.
In 2010, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) conducted its highest number of I-9 audits ever. And many more audits are coming in 2011. It’s all part of the Obama administration’s “bold new audit initiative” to find and punish employers that violate immigration laws and fail to properly complete I-9s.
Learn how you should respond to this new threat with "Immigration Compliance Update 2011: I-9s, E-Verify, Crackdowns & the ‘Obama Effect’". This audio recording from HR Specialist's popular webinar series will teach you the top 10 strategies for employer I-9 and immigration compliance.
The lack of guidance has some immigration experts concerned. “The big question is whether we'll see mass confusion like we saw earlier this decade when the letters were previously sent out by the thousands,” said Greg Siskind, an immigration and employment law attorney who frequently presents HR Specialist webinars.
Until 2008, the SSA sent no-match letters to thousands of employers every year, telling them that there was a mismatch between SSA records and the names and Social Security numbers appearing on employees' W-2 wage reports. As many as 4% of the approximately 250 million wage reports triggered no-match letters.
The SSA stopped sending no-match letters in 2008 after the ACLU, U.S. Chamber of Commerce, AFL-CIO and several other labor organizations sued to stop the government from implementing rules telling employers how to respond to the letters. The plaintiffs in that lawsuit claimed that many Social Security number discrepancies were caused by clerical mistakes or newly married employees forgetting to notify the SSA about name changes.
A federal appeals court agreed and issued an injunction that stopped implementation of the employer rules.
The no-match letters being mailed this month will pinpoint discrepancies related to the 2010 tax year.
SSA will not send the letters related to discrepancies uncovered during tax years 2007 through 2009, when no-match letters were suspended.
Advice: Make doubly sure that your process for verifying employment eligibility is bulletproof.
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