Applying for a Social Security Number
November 18, 2007

One of the requirements for legal employment in the United States is a valid Social Security Number (SSN) issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA). For most people born in the U.S., their parents take care of obtaining this number when providing information for the birth certificate. For those non-U.S. citizens who complete their immigrant visa processing at U.S. Embassies and Consulates abroad and indicated that they would like to receive a SSN on their Form DS-230, the SSA will mail them their new Social Security card shortly after their admission to the U.S. on their immigrant visas. However, for all others (not in the either of the categories noted above) who are seeking lawful employment in the U.S., it is their responsibility to apply for, and obtain a valid SSN. The following discussion elaborates on current application procedures for such non-U.S. citizens.

In order to apply for a SSN, the Applicant must go to his/her local SSA office and submit Form SS-5 and present original proof of the following:

Age – Ideally, the applicant should bring his/her original (certified copy) birth certificate (with translation if necessary). If the original birth certificate is not available, the SSA can consider other forms of documentation such as a passport or other documents issued by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Identity – The SSA will only be able to accept current (not expired) Identity Documents showing the name as well as other identifying information, preferably with a recent photograph.

Immigration Status – The applicant must show one of the following:

  • I-94 Arrival/Departure Record card which was issued upon lawful entry into the U.S. (or after a change of status) in a non-immigrant status which authorizes employment in the U.S.,
  • Form I-551 (Permanent Resident Card),
  • Immigrant visa in an unexpired passport, or
  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

Work Eligibility – An applicant’s work eligibility can be proven by presenting the above described I-94 Arrival/Departure Record and/or the applicant’s EAD card.

Upon submission of the above documentation, the SSA will examine all of the documents and seek to verify the applicant’s status in the SAVE (Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements) Program. However, if an applicant’s status cannot be verified in the SAVE program or there is a mismatch, the SSA field office will send an inquiry to CIS. If the applicant’s status can be verified, CIS usually can respond to the SSA within fifteen (15) days, if not sooner.

After receiving verification of an applicant’s employment eligible status, either through the SAVE Program or from CIS, his/her new Social Security card is usually sent within two (2) weeks of verification.

However, the SSA cautions that although an applicant may be eligible to receive a SSN immediately upon arriving in the U.S., obtaining an EAD card, or changing his/her status, the applicant should wait at least ten (10) days before applying for the SSN in order for the SAVE Program to be updated with his/her information.

*Please note there are special requirements for F-1, M-1, and J-1 students which can be found on the SSA website.

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