A: It’s a bit unclear, but it’s probably okay to accept the card as long as it doesn’t say “not valid if laminated” on the back. The United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) website’s Form I-9 Central Questions and Answers include this guidance in response to a question asking whether a laminated Social Security card is valid: “It depends. If the card states on the back ‘not valid if laminated,’ then the laminated Social Security card is not valid. The Social Security Administration (SSA) advises cardholders not to laminate Social Security cards. Metal or plastic reproductions of Social Security cards are not acceptable for Form I-9 purposes.” The Q&As also state, “A signature on the card is not required for the card to be valid. You may accept an unsigned Social Security card as long as the card reasonably appears to be genuine and to relate to the person presenting it.”
Interestingly, the agency’s Handbook for Employers briefly seemed to approve any laminated Social Security card, when, in the 03/08/13 revision of the handbook, it stated in a Q&A, “You may accept a laminated or unsigned Social Security card as long as the card reasonably appears to be genuine and to relate to the person presenting it.” However, that particular question and answer has disappeared entirely from the 04/30/13 version of the Handbook for Employers. For now, we just have the agency’s website for guidance on this point.
One final note: Be sure you’re using the latest version of the Form I-9. In the lower left corner, look for the date that says 03/08/13. As we explained in our Alert on this topic, the revised form is mandatory as of May 7, 2013. For an overview of your obligations in the I-9 process, see our Legal Guide, “At a Glance: Form I-9” (5486). To learn more, check out one of our training seminars taking place throughout Oregon, Washington, and California.
This website presents general information in nontechnical language. This information is not legal advice. Before applying this information to a specific management decision, consult legal counsel.