Facts about Immigration: Separating the wheat from chaff (Luke 3:17)
Undocumented immigrants and Social Security Numbers
James B. Lockhart, III, the Deputy Commissioner of the Social Security Administration (SSA) stated, "[i]nitially, the only purpose of the SSN (Social Security Number) was to assure that SSA kept accurate records of earnings under Social Security so that we could pay benefits based on those earnings." The SSN was never intended to serve as a form of personal identification. However, the public and private sector continue to use the SSN as a de facto national identifier.
Any person over the age of 12 must apply in person for an original social security card and must provide proof of his immigration status, work eligibility, age, and identity.
Those immigrants who do not have permission to work can obtain a SSN only if federal law or state or local law requires the applicant to provide a SSN to get a particular benefit. In order to do so, they must obtain a letter from the government organization’s letterhead which:
1. Specifically names the applicant;
2. Cites the law which requires a Social Security Card;
3. Indicates that the applicant meets the requirements, except having the number;
4. Contains the agency’s name and telephone number.
The SSA will not issue a SSN solely for the purpose of issuing a driver’s license.
Legal noncitizens can receive SSN as well. In 2003, the SSA issued approximately 1.2 million SSNs to legal noncitizens. Approximately 400,000 were for Lawful Permanent Residents who were authorized to work in the United States. Additionally, 771,000 legal noncitizens that were authorized to work only temporarily were issued special SS cards which bore the legend, "Valid for Work Only With INS Authorization." The remaining 19,000 were for noncitizens who were not authorized to work. Their SS cards have the inscription "Not Valid for Employment" written on them. Read the full report and testimony. (pdf)
About 10 percent of the wage reporting files submitted to the SSA contain invalid SSN and name combinations. Some of these errors are corrected internally but for the tax year ending 2001, the SSA reports 9.6 million W-2s with SSN problems. These mismatched files may have invalid SSNs or improper SSN and name combinations. The SSA states that these files represented $56.1 billion in earnings and $7 billion in social security payroll taxes. See more here.
These withheld wages remain in the SSA’s "suspense file" and will not be paid or credited to individuals. Additionally, any benefits applications based on SSNs issued on or after January 1, 2004 to individuals not authorized to work in the United States will not be eligible to receive certain SSA benefits. See Social Security Protection Act of 2004.