The Social Security Administration (SSA) has resumed its practice of sending no-match letters to notify employers when any of their employees' submitted Social Security numbers do not correspond to a valid number on record.

The SSA temporarily stopped issuing the letters in 2009 when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), under pressure from both unions and business groups, withdrew its Final Rule on how to deal with no-match letters.

The program was resumed on March 22.

Employers are now left to determine what to do in the absence of any guidance from the government when they receive no-match letters. The quandary becomes even worse when the SSA decides—as it often does—to turn over the names of the no-match individuals to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and/or to the United States Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS).

Another challenge: The recently revised M-274 Handbook for Employers issued by DHS makes no mention of how to respond to no-match letters, even though Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents routinely ask for no-match letters when they conduct Form I-9 audits.

Complicating matters more is the fact that these letters are often sent to the chief financial officer (CFO), a tax preparer, or even an outside accounting firm and not to the human resources department, which is responsible for I-9 employment verification.

The best defense is a good offense, so employers should ensure that their I-9 process is as thorough and error-free as possible. Then if a no-match letter arrives, that individual's I-9 form should be revisited, checked for human errors, and reverified—at the very least.

Fortunately, Personnel Concepts publishes a comprehensive guide to employment verification. Get your copy of our I-9 Compliance Kit today and be fully prepared for any audit or eventuality.