Have a new foreign national hire that can’t obtain a SSN because of the federal government shutdown? Wondering how to put your new hire on payroll?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) is just one of the many federal agencies that have discontinued certain services during the federal government shutdown. Many foreign nationals who have just received nonimmigrant work visas (e.g. E-3, F-1/M-1 with OPT, H-1B, J-1, O-1, P-1, TN, etc.) will not be able to obtain Social Security numbers (SSN) because the SSA is not providing this service during the shutdown. Many employers are wondering how to put their new hires on payroll without a SSN.
Contrary to popular belief, neither immigration law nor federal tax law require an employee to possess a social security number (SSN) to commence employment. A social security card is listed as a List C document on Form I-9, but the number is not required to begin working. The Internal Revenue Service only requires that an application for a SSN be made within seven days of commencing employment for taxable wages. An employee may start working while the SSN application is being processed.
As a practical matter, the main obstacle to commencing employment is the software of a third-party payroll preparer, which cannot generate a paycheck without the SSN. Under these circumstances, if permitted by its system, the preparer can use a “dummy” SSN solely to generate the paycheck, provided the actual SSN or other required information is provided on the information returns at the time of filing wage reports. Employers should also obtain as much information as possible, including the employee’s full name, address, date of birth, place of birth, father’s full name, mother’s full maiden name, gender and the date he or she applied for a SSN. Once the employee receives his or her SS card, a Form W-2c (Corrected Wage and Tax Statement) may be filed to show the employee’s correct SSN.
For more information about how to handle wage reports, you can visit the Social Security Administration’s website below.
Employer Responsibilities When Hiring Foreign Workers
To help ensure that only those who should receive a number do so, Social Security has taken extra steps to ensure the integrity of Social Security numbers. The changes to the way Social Security assigns numbers and issues cards may cause a delay of several weeks or months in receiving a number.