What is SSNVS and BSO?
The Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS) is one of the services offered by Social Security Administration's (SSA) Business Services Online (BSO). It allows registered users (employers and certain third-party submitters) to verify the names and Social Security Numbers (SSNs) of employees against SSA records.
With SSNVS, you may:
- Verify up to 10 names and SSNs online and receive immediate results. There is no limit to the number of times the SSN Verification web page may be used within a session.
- Upload electronic files of up to 250,000 names and SSNs and usually receive results the next government business day.
In addition to SSNVS, the BSO suite consists of Registration Services and Employer Services. Registration Services offer a User Identification Number (User ID) assignment, password selection and various registration maintenance functions. Employer Services offer W-2 file upload, W-2 and W-2c online key-in functions (no special software or forms required) and the ability to track files and view processing results and notices.
The Importance of Correct SSNs
SSA can post employee wages correctly only when employers and submitters report employee wages under the correct name and SSN. Recording names and SSNs correctly is the key to successful processing of annual wage reports. It saves the employer and the administration processing costs and allows SSA to properly credit your employees' earnings record. Credits to your employees' earnings record are important in determining their future eligibility and payment of SSA's retirement, disability and survivor benefits.
SSNVS should only be used for the purpose for which it is intended.
- SSA will verify SSNs and names solely to ensure that the records of current or former employees are correct for the purpose of completing Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form W-2 (Wage and Tax Statement).
- It is illegal to use the service to verify SSNs of potential new hires or contractors or in the preparation of tax returns.
It is appropriate to use SSNVS only once an official employer-employee
relationship has been established. SSA defines the existence of an
employer-employee relationship as when one of the following has occurred:
- The employer's offer of employment and acceptance by the person being hired (even though he/she hasn't started working); and/or
- The future employee's completion of the paperwork to establish the payroll record.
Company policy concerning the use of SSNVS should be applied consistently to
all workers; for example:
- If used for newly hired workers, verify information on all newly hired workers.
- If used to verify information on other workers, verify the information for all other workers.
- Third-party use of SSNVS is strictly limited to organizations that contract with employers to either handle the wage reporting responsibilities or perform an administrative function directly related to annual wage reporting responsibilities of hired employees. It is suggested that contracts between the third-party and the employer stipulate that the functions being performed by the third-party contractor adhere to the proper use of SSNVS. It is not proper to use SSNVS for non-wage reporting purposes such as identity, credit checks, mortgage applications, etc.
- Anyone who knowingly and willfully uses SSNVS to request or obtain information from SSA under false pretenses violates Federal law and may be punished by a fine, imprisonment or both.
- SSA may ban you and/or the company you represent from the use of SSNVS if SSA determines there has been misuse of the service.
SSA returns all names and SSNs submitted. If the name and SSN do not match
our records, SSA advises the following:
- This response does not imply that you or your employee intentionally provided incorrect information about the employee's name or SSN.
- This response does not make any statement about your employee's immigration status.
- This response is not a basis, in and of itself, to take any adverse action against the employee, such as laying off, suspending, firing or discriminating against the employee.
If you rely only on the verification information SSA provides to justify adverse action against a worker, you may violate State or Federal law and be subject to legal consequences.
If an employer has hired you to handle his/her company's annual wage reporting responsibilities, a fee-based approach can be used when offering SSNVS to your clients. However, caution should be taken. SSA offers services such as SSNVS free of charge. Some companies in the private sector offer those same services for a fee and develop misleading brochures and advertisements. To discourage the use of misleading mailings about Social Security and Medicare, Congress enacted specific prohibitions in Section 312 of the Social Security Independence and Program Improvements Act of 1994 that broadened the existing deterrents. The prohibitions are listed in Title 42 of the U.S. Code, Section 1320b-10. To ensure that you conform to these legal requirements, be careful to adhere to the following:
- Be cautious not to suggest to your clients that this service is only available through you,
- Advise all customers that this service is available at no cost from SSA and that this service is not a unique or exclusive arrangement between SSA and your company, and
- Be sure not to give any impression when describing your SSN verification service to your clients that your company has an arrangement that allows direct access to SSA databases, program software, etc.
You must complete BSO registration. Once registered, you will need to request SSNVS. You will not be able to complete the online SSNVS request process if:
- Your current employer did not file a Form W-2 for you with SSA. (Note: If you were hired in the last 18 months by your current employer, it is possible that SSA's records do not yet reflect your employment.), or
- You are currently self-employed but did not submit self-employment earnings to the IRS in the last taxable year.
If either of the above statements applies to you, begin the online registration process as described in the Registration section of this handbook. BSO will display a message asking you to fax information to (570) 706-7874.
There are several steps that must be completed before you can use SSNVS. You must:
- Register for BSO
- Login to BSO
- Request access to SSNVS
- Enter employer information
- Receive an Activation Code (mailed to your employer)
- Login to BSO
- Activate access
Every BSO user must register separately. You may not register on behalf of another person.