work without a social security number

Can a new employee begin work without a social security number?

There are certain employee data requirements that employers must obtain during the employee onboarding process. One of these requirements is the employee’s social security number (SSN). What if the new hire does not have a SSN? Can a new employee begin work without a social security number?

Why would a new hire not have a social security number?

One reason a new hire would not have a SSN is because they are a temporary foreign worker. Workers on H-2B or J-1 work visas need to apply for a social security card to work in the United States. Currently, it can take Social Security offices a few weeks to issue a SSN and card. Furthermore, it may take even longer for foreign workers to obtain their cards for various reasons.

Can a business onboard an employee with before they have a social security number?

Yes, businesses can onboard the new hire before they receive a SSN. Use the following tips for guidance.

1. Don’t Delay The New Hire’s Start Date

The social security administration allows for the onboarding of an employee without a SSN, as long as that person is otherwise authorized to work. For example, the person has a valid employment authorization document or a work visa. Additionally, employers are required to obtain a Form W-4 and Form I-9 from each new employee including foreign workers.

2. Guide Them to Apply for a SSN

Employers should advise the new hire that they need to apply for a social security card as soon as possible and to provide you with this information once they receive it. The foreign worker may know nothing about this process, so be sure to assist the employee if needed. Step-by-step instructions on this process can be found here.

While the worker waits to receive a SSN, obtain and record the following information:

  • full name
  • address
  • date of birth
  • place of birth
  • father’s full name
  • mother’s full maiden name
  • gender
  • date he/she applied for the SSN

3. Pay Your New Employee

Employers do not need a SSN to begin paying an employee. Contact us for guidance on paying an employee, and withholding proper payroll taxes, that do not have a current SSN.

A lack of a SSN can impact an employer if the worker has not received a SSN by the time the employer has to file wage reports, on Form W-2, to Social Security. In this instance:

If the worker is filing by paper and they applied but did not get their number yet:

  • In Box A, enter “Applied For”

If the worker is filing electronically and they applied but did not get their number yet:

  • In the SSN field, enter all zeros

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