“Valid for Work Only With DHS Authorization” Explained

Updated on April 10, 2024
At a Glance: If your social security card says “Valid for Work Only With DHS Authorization,” it means you need additional documents, such as an Employment Authorization Document, to prove your work eligibility in the United States. The card alone is not sufficient. Employers must request supplementary documentation to verify work authorization. The restricted card does not affect immigration status but cannot be used for work authorization. Only an unrestricted card, without such endorsements, can be used as proof of work eligibility. Employers must comply with the law and ask for proof of work authorization using the I-9 form. If you face issues or discrimination, seek assistance from immigration rights groups, union representatives, or the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices. You can apply for an unrestricted card if you have asylum, permanent resident status, or U.S. citizenship.

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Understanding work authorization in the United States can be difficult. Even when you have a social security card, it may not be clear what some of the details mean. One of these is the endorsement “Valid for Work Only with DHS Authorization”. If you would like to know more about what this means, read on.

What Does “Valid for Work Only With DHS Authorization” Mean?

If you have a social security card that says “Valid for Work Only With DHS Authorization”, it means your immigration status is valid, but you need separate documents to prove that you are allowed to work in the United States – for example with an Employment Authorization Document

In short, “Valid for Work Only With DHS Authorization” means you cannot use your social security card alone to prove to an employer that you are allowed to work in the United States. This situation is common for people on an H1-B visa.

1. “Valid Only With DHS Authorization” for Employers

For employers, the words “Valid for Work Only With DHS Authorization” on a potential employee’s social security card may be worrying. However, it is not necessarily a cause for concern. The following sections go into more detail about the issue.

Can Workers Whose Social Security Card Says “Valid Only With DHS Authorization” Be Hired?

Yes. “Valid for Work Only With DHS Authorization” just means employers must ask the employee for some other documentation, specifically to show their work authorization. 

The I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form lists all of the types of documents that are legally acceptable to prove work authorization.

Employers can hire any worker who has supplementary documentation that satisfies the requirements of the I-9 form.

When Work Authorization hasn’t been proven but the Social Security Card is Valid?

Having the endorsement “Valid for Work Only With DHS Authorization” on a social security card has no bearing on its validity in terms of immigration status. It just means the card alone cannot be used to prove work authorization. 

This type of social security card is called restricted. A valid, restricted card cannot be used to prove work authorization.

However, an unrestricted card, which just has a name and social security number—no endorsements—can be used to prove work authorization.

In short, a social security card can be valid and restricted or valid and unrestricted. Only a valid, unrestricted card can be used to prove work authorization. A valid but restricted card must be accompanied by proof of work authorization.

2. “Valid Only With DHS Authorization” for Employees

As a job applicant, seeing the words “Valid for Work Only With DHS Authorization” on your social security card may make you worry about your chances of getting hired. However, this should not be the case, as the sections below explain.

Why Must Employers Be Shown Proof of Work Authorization?

It is the law. Since 1986, U.S. immigration law has required all employers in the country to only hire workers who are authorized to work. Failure to do so can make the employer liable for legal or financial penalties.

When and How Must Proof of Work Authorization Be Shared With an Employer?

Employers check employees’ work authorization using the I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification form. All employees have to fill in and submit this form when they are hired, not just immigrants.

Employers are required to ask new hires to fill in their I-9 form within 3 days of their first day of work. 

The I-9 form has a list of all the different kinds of documents you can show your employer to prove your work authorization.

Your employer may also choose to make copies of the documents to keep, but the law does not require that. However, the law does require that if an employer makes copies of a worker’s documents, they must do the same for every worker.

Also, please note you, the employee, are the only one who can choose which of the documents on the list to show your employer. Your employer cannot demand that you show a specific document.

They also cannot force you to show more documents than the I-9 form requires. You only have to fulfill the legal requirements of the I-9 form, not what your employer chooses.

“Valid for Work Only With DHS Authorization” FAQ

This section lists some questions which often come up when discussing restricted and unrestricted social security cards, and work authorization.

Will my employer share my work authorization information with Immigration?

They might, but they are not required to. The law only requires that your employer keeps the filled-in I-9 forms available. They must also show the documents to authorities when ordered to. 

Some employers choose to volunteer information to the Department of Homeland Security using the E-Verify system. In that case, your information would be shared with immigration services.

What if my work permit expires before I receive my renewal?

In certain cases, a receipt for the renewed permit can serve as proof. Also, for certain people, the expired permit can serve as proof.

If you do not qualify under these special circumstances contact your union representative or a worker center. They may be able to help you ask your employer to place you on a leave of absence until you can get your renewal.

What if I lose my immigration or work authorization documents?

In this situation, your employer must accept a receipt for the replacement of the missing documents.

Can my employer ask me for my work documents again?

Yes, but only under special circumstances. If the work authorization you showed had an expiration date (e.g. I-94 card with work endorsement) your employer can ask you to show it again on or before the expiry date. This is so that they can re-verify your work authorization status.

Only you can choose what documents (from the list in the I-9 form) to show to prove that you are still authorized to work in the country. Your employer cannot demand that you show a renewed version of the same document or any other document in particular.

Your employer can choose to re-verify the status of every worker if they wish, but it is illegal for them to single out certain workers for re-verification, except in the case stated above.

Except for these special circumstances, your employer is generally not allowed to ask you to show your documents again. If they do, it is an infringement of your rights.

What can I do to enforce my rights?

If you believe you have been the subject of discrimination due to your immigration status, here are a few things you can do:

  • Contact an immigration rights group
  • Contact your union representative or a worker center
  • Contact the Office of Special Counsel for Immigration-Related Unfair Employment Practices (OSC), which is part of the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice. The OSC is part of the U.S. government but is not affiliated with immigration services in any way.

How do I know if I am eligible for an “unrestricted” Social Security card?

You can apply for an unrestricted social security card under the following circumstances:

You can apply for your new card for free at your nearest Social Security Administration office. It is best to do so in person because you need to submit original immigration documents, and it is never a good idea to send original documents by mail.

Read More

Final Thoughts 

The endorsement “Valid for Work Only With DHS Authorization” appears on your social security card if your immigration status is valid but you need further proof that you are allowed to work in the United States. It is a legal requirement for employers to make sure their employees have work authorization.

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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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