Can I Hire a Worker Whose Social Security Card Says "Valid Only With DHS Authorization"?


The card might be valid, but the work authorization hasn't been proven.

I run a small landscaping company that sometimes hires workers from other countries, but I’ve come across a situation that I’ve never seen before. A recently hired worker showed me a card that says, “Valid only with DHS authorization.” What is this? Is it okay to accept it for purposes of Form I-9?


While this is likely a genuine Social Security card (it is unclear why someone would want a fake card that does not allow him or her to work), you cannot accept it for I-9 purposes, as it does not serve as evidence of a person’s work authorization. A card bearing this notation is known as a “restricted” Social Security card; the Social Security Administration typically issues such cards to foreign nationals who possess time-limited work authorization (such as H-1B visa holders, students working under Optional Practical Training, and those who have been granted deferred action under DACA).

If an employee presents a restricted Social Security card to you during the I-9 process, you should tell him that the card is not acceptable as a List C document and should give him an opportunity to present alternative documentation.

He may be able to present a List A document, such as an Employment Authorization Document (EAD, also known as an I-766, Employment Authorization Card) or a foreign passport containing an I-94 card (a record issued to a foreign national when he enters the U.S. indicating his visa status and the expiration date of his authorized stay in the U.S.) endorsed for work. If the I-94 is not part of the passport, the employee may present it as a List C document proving work authorization together with any List B identity document.

Be careful about accepting an I-94, however. It may only be used if the period of endorsement has not yet expired and the proposed employment does not conflict with any restrictions or limitations listed on the I-94. Also, some persons, such as certain students and exchange visitors, must also present additional documentation in order to prove their work authorization in the United States.

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