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What is the difference between a SSN Trace, SSN Validation, SSN Verification and an Eligibility to Work verification?

Social Security Number (SSN)-based screening products can be some of the most confusing to navigate because there are many different types and they are all used at different times for different purposes. The following guide will break down the most common SSN-based products, what they are used for and when to use them.

SSN & Address Validations

AKA: SSN Trace, Person Search, Credit Header, etc.

It is the search of a database that may contain information about the issuing location, issue date, death index status, names and addresses associated with a specific SSN.

It is not a direct verification with the Social Security Administration that the specific SSN belongs to the person being screened.

Uses: The search can help indicate whether the SSN is likely accurate or not. It  is good supplemental tool for locating addresses linked to the applicant that s/he may have omitted from the application purposely and it is also an investigational tool used to determine who to search for and where to look when conducting a criminal record search.

Timing: This search may be conducted pre-hire.

Limitations: Adverse actions should not be taken based on the results of the search, it is an investigational tool. This search does not fulfill post-hire, eligibility to work verification requirements.

SSN Verifications

AKA: Consent Based Social Security Verification (CBSV), Social Security Number Verification Service (SSNVS)

It is the search of the Social Security Administration (SSA) official record to verify that the information (name, address, date of birth, etc) obtained from an applicant matches the information the data in the SSA records.

It is not a verification of identity, citizenship or employment eligibility.

Uses: The CBSV search provides SSN verifications with the consent of the applicant for a disclosed business purpose. The SSNVS is used only wage reporting purposes to assure that W-2 forms have been completed correctly.

Timing: The CBSV may be requested at any with a signed authorization from the applicant. The SSNVS may only be pulled by an employer post-hire.

Limitations: CBSV searches can only be requested after the applicant has signed the SSA Form 89 Authorization for the SSA To Release SSN Verification. SSNVS searches can only be conducted post-hire for wage reporting purposes. This verification is not an investigation tool and does not provide additional


Eligibility to Work Verifications

AKA: E-Verify, Form I-9

It is the review of government documents or databases by an employer to determine that they only employ individuals who may legally work in the United States.

It is not an investigation tool or part of a background check.

Uses: E-Verify is an electronic system that compares information from an employee’s Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification, to data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security and SSA records to confirm employment eligibility. It is illegal for businesses to employ workers who are not eligible to work in this country.

Timing: Employers may verify a new hire’s eligibility to work via Form I-9 (and, in some cases, E-Verify) after the prospective employee has accepted an employment offer and no later than the third business day after the new employee starts work for pay.

Limitations: These verifications cannot be used as a pre-screening tool or part of a background check.  They can only be used for employment purposes for verifying a new employee’s eligibility to work.


Here is a good comparison of SSN-based searches and additional information is available on the SSA and USCIS websites.