By Attorney Farhad Sethna, © 2013
In a press release on November 18, 2013, USCIS Director Alejandro Mayorkas claimed that the USCIS now has the ability to “lock” social security numbers in the “E-verify” system.
As background, the E-verify system is an online electronic database which any prospective employer can use to verify if any prospective employee is legally authorized to work in the United States. The employer can hire that prospective candidate if he or she is “approved” by the e-verify system.
What does it mean to “lock” a Social Security number?
The USCIS claims that it is now able to “lock” social security numbers within the E-verify system. What this means is that a suspect number could automatically be deactivated or invalidated for purposes of U.S. employment eligibility (the locking process is limited to E-verify at this time, and should not affect any other U.S. government or state benefits).
How dos the USCIS decide if a SSA number should be “locked”?
The numbers would be “locked” if USCIS analysis, algorithms, and detection reports show that a social security number appears to have been misused. When a prospective employee provides a social security number, and the number matches the “locked” numbers criteria, that applicant will receive a “tentative non-confirmation” (“TNC”) and employment is not authorized.
How can a person with a “locked” number fix this problem?
Upon receipt of a TNC, the affected prospective employee will need to go to the nearest local office of the Social Security Administration to prove his or her identity and consequently the legal and valid assignment of the locked social security number to him or her. The SSA can then communicate with USCIS to “unlock” the number in the E-verify system. The prospective employee can then proceed back to the employer for re-application and confirmation through the E-verify system.
What about errors in the E-verify system?
On its face, the “locking” of social security numbers may seem a good idea but, the mechanism for “locking” remains to be verified. For instance, what if the USCIS’ is using incorrect logic? The system is after all, based on algorithms, fraud reports, or any other indicia of fraud – which could themselves be suspect.
Burdens on valid U.S. workers:
Locking a valid number presented by an employment-authorized US worker would mean that a legally valid US worker will not be able to secure employment. Additionally, it would also require a legally employable US worker to take additional steps to clear his or her own identity, potentially at great personal cost.
Finally, what happens to an employee who is not able to take the time or have the money to proceed to the nearest Social Security office and clear up any issues? Remember, every town does not have a Social Security office. That would potentially prevent the US worker from being employed, and place a severe financial burden on the employee and his or her dependents.
Therefore, on its face, while “locking’ social security numbers appears to be a good idea to prevent identity fraud, in practice, it may prove to be a significant hurdle for legitimate, eligible U.S. workers whose numbers have been “locked” by the USCIS.
Copyright, Farhad Sethna, Attorney, 2013
About the author: Attorney Farhad Sethna has practiced law for over 20 years. Since 1996, he has been an adjunct professor of Immigration Law at the University of Akron, School of Law, in Akron, Ohio. He is a frequent speaker at Continuing Legal Education and professional development seminars on various immigration-related topics. His practice is limited to immigration and small business. With offices in Akron and Dover, Ohio, Attorney Sethna represents clients in all types of immigration cases. Our number is: (330)-384-8000. Please send your general immigration questions to AttorneySethna@immigration-america.com. We will try to answer as many questions as possible.
This is only general legal information. Please consult a qualified immigration attorney for advice on your specific case.