DHS Authorization for Social Security Cards Explained

Updated on May 8, 2024

At a Glance

  • DHS authorization links a non-citizen’s work eligibility to their Social Security card acquisition.
  • For a non-citizen to apply, proof of DHS approval is required, often via an Employment Authorization Document.
  • Employers must verify work eligibility, typically through Form I-9, and the E-Verify system against SSA and DHS records.

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Navigating the complexities of employment in the United States is tricky, particularly for non-citizens. The term “DHS Authorization” is key and important to understand. It connects an individual’s immigration status with their eligibility to work—and, by extension, their ability to obtain a Social Security card.

What is DHS Authorization?

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is the ultimate authority on work authorization for non-US-citizens within the US. For non-citizens, obtaining a Social Security Number (SSN) is contingent upon the DHS’s green light. This authorization is a federal requirement and governs employment.

Applying for a Social Security Number

An SSN application for non-citizens is dependent on proof of DHS Authorization. Applicants typically present an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) or a work-permitting visa as proof. However the DHS’s stamp of approval comes in various forms, and understanding which documents are acceptable is crucial for a smooth application process.

Different Cards for Different Statuses

Social Security cards issued to non-citizens with DHS work authorization may carry specific notations, such as “VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION.” This phrase indicates the individual’s employment constraints and the card’s special conditions.

Employers’ Verification Responsibilities

Employers are required to ensure that their employees have the appropriate authorization to work. This is typically verified through Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, and may also involve the E-Verify system. This system cross-references an employee’s information with SSA and DHS databases to confirm work eligibility.

DHS Authorizations and Employers

When onboarding new team members, employers may encounter social security cards bearing the notation “VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION.” This endorsement signals a need for employers to obtain and verify specific documentation that affirms the individual’s legal permission to work in the United States.

Understanding the DHS Endorsement

The presence of a DHS endorsement does not inherently validate the individual’s immigration status; rather, it indicates that their eligibility to work is contingent upon authorization from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). As an employer, you are required to verify that this authorization is current and valid.

Verifying Employment Eligibility

All new hires, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status, are required to complete the Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification. This process is critical for ensuring that your workforce complies with legal standards. The I-9 form outlines acceptable documentation which falls into three categories, each designed to verify specific elements of a worker’s eligibility:

  1. Identity Verification: Documents such as driver’s licenses or government-issued ID cards serve to establish an individual’s identity.
  2. Work Authorization: Items like a social security card (without restrictions) or an employment authorization document prove a person’s right to work in the U.S.
  3. Combination Documents: Some documents, like a U.S. passport or a permanent resident card (Green Card), are sufficient to verify both identity and work authorization concurrently.

Document Requirements Based on Individual Circumstances

The exact combination of documents required can vary based on the employee’s status. For example:

  • U.S. Citizens: A U.S. passport or passport card is generally sufficient to establish both identity and authorization to work.
  • Permanent Residents: A Green Card alone establishes both identity and the right to work in the United States.
  • Non-Citizens with Work Authorization: Those with a DHS endorsement on their social security card will need to provide additional documentation, such as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), to confirm their work eligibility.

Employer Responsibilities

It’s essential for employers to familiarize themselves with the list of documents acceptable for I-9 verification and to ensure that the documents presented are genuine and relate to the person presenting them. It is equally important to avoid discriminatory practices by not requesting more or different documents than are required to establish work eligibility, and not to refuse to accept documents that appear to be genuine on their face.

DHS Endorsements on Your Social Security Card

As an employee, if your Social Security card includes the phrase “VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION,” it’s crucial to understand what this means for your employment. This notation indicates that you must provide your employer with evidence beyond your Social Security card to legally work in the United States. Typically, this involves presenting an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Types of Employment Authorization Documents

The DHS provides various forms of employment authorization documents, each corresponding to different statuses and circumstances. Here are some of the documents you might need to present:

  1. Arrival/Departure Record (Form I-94): This document indicates the terms of your admission, including your status and authorized period of stay.
  2. Refugee Travel Document (Form I-571): Issued to refugees and asylees, this document allows travel abroad and return to the U.S.
  3. Permit to Reenter (Form I-327): For permanent residents returning from temporary trips outside the U.S.
  4. Certificate of Citizenship (Form N-560 or N-561): This is issued to individuals who derive citizenship through their parents or who become citizens after birth.
  5. Certificate of Naturalization (Form N-570): This is a document given to those who have become naturalized citizens.

Additional Proof with Notice of Action

In some instances, a Notice of Action (Form I-797) from USCIS may suffice, especially when accompanied by an expired permanent resident card (Green Card). The Notice of Action indicates that USCIS has received your application and is processing it, which can be an interim proof of your status while you await a new card.

What You Need to Do

When you’re hired for a new job, you’ll need to complete an I-9 form. This form verifies both your identity and your employment authorization. You’ll select from a list of documents that meet these criteria. If your Social Security card has the DHS endorsement, be prepared to present one of the aforementioned documents.

Keeping Your Documentation Updated

It’s vital to keep track of the expiration dates on your documents and renew them as needed. An expired document can lead to employment verification issues and potentially impact your employment.

Securing a DHS Work Authorization Endorsement for Your Social Security Card

Obtaining a Social Security card that bears a DHS work authorization endorsement is a necessary step for many individuals who are not U.S. citizens but wish to work in the United States. The process varies slightly depending on your status as a permanent resident or a temporary worker.

For Temporary Workers

If you’re a temporary worker, the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) must first grant you work authorization. Here’s how to initiate the process:

  1. Complete the Application for Employment Authorization (Form I-765): This form is your request for permission to work in the U.S. It also has a provision for you to apply for a Social Security card as part of the same process.
  2. Submit the Form I-765: Ensure that you have filled out the form accurately and included any necessary documentation.
  3. Apply Through the Social Security Administration (SSA): If you prefer, or if you are already in possession of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD), you can apply for a Social Security card directly through the SSA. Be prepared to present your EAD when applying to have the necessary DHS endorsement on your Social Security card.

For Permanent Residents

As a permanent resident, you also have the opportunity to receive a Social Security card without the restrictive DHS endorsement. Follow these steps:

  1. File the USCIS Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status (Form I-485): When completing this form, there’s an option to request a Social Security card.
  2. Use Form I-485 to Request a Card: Indicate your need for a new Social Security card on this form. This is applicable whether you’re applying for your first card or seeking a replacement for an existing one.
  3. Update Your Work Authorization: If you already have a Social Security card with the DHS work authorization notation and you’ve adjusted your status to that of a permanent resident, use Form I-485 to initiate the removal of the “VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION” notice from your Social Security card.

Key Points to Remember

  • Timing: After USCIS approves your work authorization, it can take several weeks for your documents to be processed and your Social Security card to be issued.
  • Documentation: Always keep your immigration documents up to date. Expired documents can delay the process and affect your employment.
  • Consult the Authorities: For the most current information and for guidance through the process, consult directly with USCIS or the SSA.

Final Thoughts

Obtaining a DHS authorization endorsement for your Social Security card is a crucial step in legitimizing your employment status in the United States as a non-citizen. Whether you’re a temporary worker seeking to validate your work authorization or a permanent resident looking to update your Social Security card, understanding the intricacies of the process and staying diligent with your documentation is essential. By following the outlined steps for each status and maintaining clear communication with USCIS and the SSA, you can ensure that your employment eligibility is properly recorded and recognized, allowing you to work within the legal framework of U.S. employment regulations.

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.

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