1. WHAT IS A SOCIAL SECURITY ADMINISTRATION “NO-MATCH LETTER”?
The Social Security Administration (“SSA”) sends “no-match letters” to businesses when their employees’ names and Social Security numbers (“SSNs”) don’t exactly match those in the SSA’s files, based on information the SSA gets each year from the employer. There are many possible reasons for a “no-match.” For example, an employee’s name might have changed because of marriage or divorce, there may be a typographical error, discrepancies may have occurred because of different customs around the use of surnames, or the employer’s records may simply have mistakes in them.
SSA no-match letters are supposed to serve a good purpose. They are meant to ensure that all of an employee’s earnings are actually credited to their Social Security account, so their SSA benefits will be as large as possible when they begin using them, for example when they retire or become disabled. (Undocumented workers are not eligible for Social Security.) Importantly, as these letters themselves say, they do NOT indicate anything about an employee’s immigration status or work authorization.
For sample SSA no-match letters and related information provided by the SSA, see https://www.ssa.gov/employer/notices.html.
 There are different types of “no-match letters.” This fact sheet is only about the type of no-match letter sent to employers by the SSA, also known as an “Employer Correction Request Notice”.
2. WHAT DOES IT MEAN IF MY EMPLOYER GETS A NO-MATCH LETTER?
If your employer receives an SSA no-match letter, it means the name and SSN of at least one employee at your workplace do not match SSA’s records. The letter does not name those employees, although an employer can learn their identities using an online SSA service.
If your employer received a no-match letter, it does not mean that the identified employees are undocumented. It also does not mean that federal immigration authorities have contacted your employer. The SSA does not enforce immigration laws.
3. WHAT SHOULD MY EMPLOYER DO WHEN IT GETS A NO-MATCH LETTER?
Your employer should notify you of the mismatch issue.
The SSA asks employers to check whether they made a typographical error when they provided it their information about you. If there are no such errors, then your employer should ask you to review its records to see whether they contain an error in your name or social security number. If that is not the case, then your employer should ask you to check with a local SSA office to resolve the issue. If it is not possible to fix the no-match issue, according to the SSA, the employer is not required to take any further action.
 https://www.ssa.gov/employer/notices/EDCOR%20Letter%20-%20Final%20-%20Attachment%20-%209-16-19_508.pdf, at 3 (“If you are unable to resolve the mismatch using these tips, you will not be able to correct the corresponding error at this time. There is no need to take any further action.”).
4. WHAT SHOULD MY EMPLOYER NOT DO WHEN IT GETS A NO-MATCH LETTER?
Your employer should not take any adverse action against you, such as suspending or firing you, just because it received a no-match letter. The letter itself states:
Do not take adverse action against an employee, such as laying off, suspending, firing, or discriminating against that individual, just because this letter identifies a mismatch between his or her SSN or name as reported to us. Those actions could violate state or federal law and subject you to legal consequences.
Also, your employer cannot use the letter as an excuse to threaten adverse immigration actions against you or other workers (for example, by threatening to report you to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)) or to retaliate against workers who have tried to exercise their legal rights. Employers also generally cannot use a no-match letter as a basis to reverify workers’ work authorization documents.
5. WHAT SHOULD I DO IF MY EMPLOYER SAYS I HAVE TO CORRECT MY NAME OR SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER BASED ON A NO-MATCH LETTER?
The answer to this question depends upon each individual situation. Here are some general tips to consider:
A good first step is to ask your employer for a copy of the no-match letter and the report from the SSA identifying you as an employee with a no-match issue. If your employer refuses to do so, it is possible the employer has not actually received a no-match letter.
If you are in a union, you should immediately contact your union to discuss the best next steps. Employers are required to bargain with unions about how they respond to no-match letters, and your union can act to protect you and other workers from adverse actions based on them.
If you are not in a union, or your union will not assist you with this issue, you should let your employer know you will look into this issue and notify it of any corrections to your information. If you are able to fix the no-match issue, notify your employer of any necessary corrections to your name or SSN. If you are not able to correct the no-match issue, however, you do not need to do anything further.
If you would like to discuss your individual situation and potential next steps, you can contact our office, Legal Aid at Work, at 800-864-1664.
6. WHAT IF I CANNOT CORRECT THE NO-MATCH ISSUE AND MY EMPLOYER KEEPS INSISTING THAT I DO SO?
In some cases, employers may continue to insist that an employee provide corrected name or SSN information, even after an employee has said they will look into the issue and notify the employer of any necessary corrections.
Some employers may be genuinely confused about what they have to do in response to an SSA no-match letter, and assume—wrongly—that they must correct the discrepancies, or that the government will punish them if they do not do so. As explained above in Question 3, however, the SSA does not require employers to correct the mismatched information. If your employer is genuinely confused about its obligations, you or an advocate might be able to educate your employer about the purpose of SSA no-match letters, and point out that SSA does not require them to take any actions because of those letters. A sample letter to be given to such employers can be found here.
Sometimes, an employer insists that employees provide corrected information as a way to intimidate them or to retaliate against them because they had previously asserted their employment rights. As noted in Question 4 above, employers may do so while threatening to report workers to immigration authorities. In such situations, workers should keep notes and documentation about the employer’s threats and demands for corrected information, employees’ complaints about workplace rights, and related issues in the workplace. They may also wish to provide the employer with a letter explaining that no-match letters say nothing about an employee’s work authorization, and forbid the employer from taking action against workers. Employees may wish to contact legal counsel—immigration lawyers as well as workplace rights lawyers–to seek advice about what steps they might take, and any risks that could result. Employees may also want to contact workers’ rights organizers and worker centers that can support the workers in exploring their options and, potentially, in taking collective action to protect and assert their rights.
In either of the above situations, if you belong to a union, you should contact your union in case it is able to become involved and protect you from any adverse actions.
If you would like to discuss your individual situation and potential next steps, you can contact Legal Aid at Work at 800-864-1664.
7. WHAT SHOULD I DO IF I THINK MY EMPLOYER MAY REPORT ME TO ICE?
If you are undocumented, you should contact an immigration lawyer, as well as employment law experts, to discuss your options and their risks. Even though you are undocumented, the law protects you against retaliation of this kind. It is important to note—and your employer should be warned—that reporting employees to ICE because they have exercised their workplace rights violates both federal and California law. In California, moreover, it is specifically unlawful for an employer to even threaten to do so.
Employers who report their workers to ICE because they have objected to their working conditions may suffer severe penalties, including (in California) suspension of their business licenses. Employees who have been threatened in this manner, or have actually suffered retaliation, may also recover any lost wages and damages. The fact that there are no requirements for employers to take action based on a no-match letter may only strengthen the case against them.
8. WHAT OTHER RESOURCES MIGHT BE HELPFUL TO ME?
- National Immigration Law Center’s Social Security No-Match Letter Toolkit: https://www.nilc.org/wp-content/uploads/2019/03/No-Match-Toolkit-2019.pdf
- Legal Aid at Work’s Comparison Table on Employers’ Review of Work Authorization Documents
- For a full list of Legal Aid at Work’s fact sheets on workers’ rights, see https://legalaidatwork.org/fact-sheets/