E.g., 09/02/2014
E.g., 09/02/2014

Social Security Cards Not Secure Despite Improvements to Other Identity Documents

Press Release
Monday, June 18, 2007

Social Security Cards Not Secure Despite Improvements to Other Identity Documents

New MPI Backgrounder Looks at the Security Features of 
Work, Travel and Identity Documents in the U.S.

WASHINGTON -- A rare point of agreement in the current Congressional debate on immigration reform is the need for secure documents to verify which people are legally living and working in the United States.

new MPI Fact Sheet by Dawn Konet provides a chart of the security features -- from photos and fingerprints to holograms and lamination -- of documents issued by government agencies and used by U.S. residents to work, travel, and verify their identities. The documents include passports and laser visas, Social Security cards, Green Cards, employment authorization cards, and state driver’s licenses.

Whereas some of the other commonly used documents have had their security features steadily improved, there have been no significant changes to the Social Security card.  Pending legislation in Congress would require major changes to Social Security cards; the Security Through Regularized Immigration and a Vibrant Economy (STRIVE) Act (H.R.1645) and the Comprehensive Immigration Reform Act (S.1348) would require Social Security cards to include security features designed to prevent tampering, counterfeiting, or duplication and to be machine readable. New cards must also contain features that make the card fraud-resistant, tamper-resistant and wear-resistant, and be made of plastic or similar material instead of the standard banknote paper that has been used since 1983.

“The Social Security card is the least secure government-issued identity document and one of the most commonly used to show work eligibility,” said MPI Senior Fellow Doris Meissner. "Without immigration reform legislation, employers will continue to be confronted with false documents and will be unable to comply with laws requiring them to hire only people authorized to work."

“Document Security Provisions: What’s in the Cards?” is online.

This publication is part of an MPI series exploring key issues that have been raised by the Senate’s deliberations on immigration reform. 

An earlier Backgrounder, "Proposed Points System and Its Likely Impact on Prospective Immigrants,"provides data on the foreign born in the United States related to the selection criteria under consideration for a points-based immigrant selection system. These include age, educational attainment, occupation, English proficiency, and labor force participation -- factors that may be given greater emphasis than extended family relationships.