What are they, and how do you obtain one?
As soon as an immigrant arrives in the United States, they are expected to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) immediately. Obtaining a Social Security Card is important and required for the following reasons:
- Allows an individual to work in the United States.
- Allows an individual to receive services from banks and social security benefits.
- Allows immigrants to pay taxes, or become a dependent on someone else’s tax return.
But how is an immigrant expected to get a Social Security Number? It’s quite simple.
- The individual would go to the nearest Social Security Administration (SSA) office.
- Fill in an application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5)
- Hold on to your receipt, and receive your Social Security Number in two to three weeks via mailing services.
If you are on the H1B Visa…
- You are classified as an immigrant, not yet a citizen.
- Social Security will ask for the following documentation from you…
- Form I-551 (Includes readable immigrant visa with your unexpired foreign passport)
- Work permit card from the Department of Homeland Security (Either I-766 or I-688B is accepted.) Or an I-94 with your unexpired foreign passport.
Why is applying for a Social Security Number Necessary?
Just obtaining an H1B visa is not considered enough. You are not legally allowed to work in the United States unless you have a Social Security Number by which you can be identified. SSN’s are a unique number to everyone in the United States, and are used to identify individuals. Everyone is required to be registered with the government in the United States.
Why can I not share my Social Security Number?
It is important to understand situations where you will be required to share your Social Security Number, and when you should not be sharing it. You do not need to always carry your Social Security Card on you, it is suggested that you instead keep it somewhere safe where it will not be lost, and memorize the number you are assigned. Consider your Social Security Number your personal tracking number, and that is what is used to figure out where you work, credit information, tax information, finding your bank account, etc. Your Social Security Number will also be used when applying for things through states or federal government, such as getting a driving licence, or obtaining communication and internet services.
What if I am a Green Card Holder?
If you are a Green Card Holder or already a permanent resident of the United States, there are two ways you can obtain a Social Security Number.
- If you haven’t applied for a Green Card yet, you can apply for one as you fill out your Visa application to come to the United States. You will fill out the Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration (US Department of State Form DS230). The Department of State and Department of Homeland Security will then coordinate with you to issue you a Social Security Number and card. You will receive your Social Security Card in the mail after arriving in the United States.
- If you did not apply for an SSN as you applied for your Visa, you will then be required to go to a Social Security Number office to apply for one. You will be required to bring your password along with your visa, or a Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551.) You will also be required to bring your birth certificate along with one of the other items mentioned above to qualify to receive a Social Security Number.
How to obtain a Social Security Number if you are a non-immigrant
People that come to the US on Visas for schooling, or H1B, can also apply to obtain a Social Security Number. Below are the documents individuals will be required to bring if they are non-immigrants.
- SS-5 Application (Available at SSA office or on their website)
- F-1 Visa holders are required to bring their SEVIS I-29 form, and J-1/J-2 Visa holders are required to bring their DS-2019 form.
- Proof of employment eligibility.
- Job offer
- I-20 endorsed for CPT
- Employment Authorization Document
- Social Security letter from OIS (Office of International Services)
I was assigned a Social Security Number, yet lost my card. What now?
If your Social Security card becomes stolen or lost, it must be reported to the Social Security Administration. The SSA will then replace your card with no additional cost, with a limit of three replacements per lifetime. These limits only apply if you are losing your card, not if you change citizen status or your legal name.
You are required to bring the following documentation in order to receive a replacement Social Security Card…
- Some form of proof that validates your identity
- A completed Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5)
- Evidence of your current legal noncitizen status, only if you are on the H1B Visa
You will not receive a new number, but yet again the same details as beforehand.
How to find a Social Security Administration office near you
The Social Security Administration office has a tool on their webpage that will allow you to search for an office by zip code.
- Go to https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp
- Enter your zip code
- Take down information such as an address, hours of operation, and directions to the office.
Tips Regarding Social Security Number and Services
You do not want anyone else finding out your Social Security Number. You will be asked on several occasions to verify your number to verify your identity, but in most cases will only be asked to provide the last four digits, which is safe. Before supplying your social security number to anyone, you can ask these questions to have a better understanding of why they are asking for it, and if it is safe to provide to them.
- Why do you need my social security number?
- What will happen if I do not supply my social security number, is it necessary?
- How will my social security number be used?
- Can you supply some additional information on why you would be in need of my social security number?
Based on the answers given to some of these questions, you should be able to gain a good understanding if it is safe to supply your number, or if it is unsafe to supply your social security number.
Some additional tips to help immigrants when dealing with Social Security Numbers…
- Do not write your social security number on checks, business cards, or anything else for that matter.
- You should not need to write your Social Security Number anywhere unless filling out legal documents.
- Keep your Social Security Number at a safe place that you won’t forget at all times. Do not carry your Social Security Number around with you, this will put you at risk of losing it, and potentially giving someone else the chance to steal your identity.
- Do not throw away any documents with your Social Security Number on it without first destroying them. Identity theft is always a threat in the United States, and one of the first steps in someone stealing your identity is obtaining your Social Security Number. Purchase a shredder or ensure your Social Security Number will not be legible if someone were to pick through your trash and come across said document.
- Having trouble finding the correct forms for your application process? Visit this link which is a form finder for the US Government
- You may reach Social Security Services at ‘1(800) 772-1213’
- Social Security’s official website is under the domain of http://www.socialsecurity.gov