One of the first things you need to do if you plan on working in America is to get your social security number. This number will be your #1 form of identification in the United States. Your employer will use the social security number to report your income to the government and you will need it when you file your taxes. You will be asked for it every time you want to rent or buy a home, a car or any other big purchase that you need to finance. You also need your social security number to build your credit history and it helps banks to check if you’re credit worthy. Would you like to learn how to get your social security number in America? Just keep reading!
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Who will ask for my Social Security Number (SSN) and why?
- Landlords will ask for your SSN if you want to rent a home. With this information they will run a credit check and a criminal background check on you.
- Banks and credit institutions – Since 1970 the federal government requires banks and financial institutions to obtain their customers’ social security numbers. They are used as a secure form of identification – each SSN exists only once and can therefore clearly identify each person. Financial institutions are supposed to check your credit and report your income or losses through investments and interest to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). Also, if you own a home, your bank will report your tax deductible mortgage interest to the IRS as well.
- Your employer uses your SSN to report your income to the IRS and your social security wages to the Social Security Administration.
- You will need your SSN to file your taxes – the IRS uses it to compare the income you report in your tax return to the income your employer and financial institutions report to them to make sure you don’t withhold or overpay any tax money.
- Doctors and medical institutions will ask for it for identification purposes.
- If for any reason you need to apply for government assistance, like social security disability income or unemployment benefits, the government institution who manages the program will use your SSN to ensure your identity is correct and you aren’t claiming benefits you aren’t entitled to.
- The DMV (Department of Motor Vehicles) will ask you for your SSN when you apply for a driver’s license.
Now, only because all these institutions and companies ask for your social security number doesn’t necessarily mean that you have to provide it. Just make sure you understand that if you don’t provide all the required information, they can deny their services to you.
According to the social security administration, lawfully admitted non-citizens can get many benefits and services without a Social Security number. You don’t need a number to get a driver’s license, register for school or get private health insurance. The responsible institutions might ask for your social security number for identification purposes, but they should be able to identify you by other means if you request it.
The social security number is widely used and there’s almost no way around it if you want to enjoy all benefits of your new life in America. Make sure to keep your social security card in a safe place and disclose it only to institutions and companies you trust – it’s easy for criminals to commit identity theft if they have your SSN. You should store your social security card in a safe place at home and never carry it with you. If you can’t remember your SSN, write it down, but leave your card at home. If you ever lose your card or feel like your identity was stolen, report it to your social security office immediately and get a replacement card or even a new number, to be on the safe side.
Who can apply for a Social Security Number (SSN)?
All non-citizens who are authorized to work in the Unites States are eligible for a SSN. Those with a non-employment based, temporary visa, who have no work authorization, will not be issued a SSN.
So, how do I get a Social Security Number (SSN)?
There are two options. For some visas you can already obtain the SSN from your home country. If this doesn’t apply to your kind of visa, you can go to your local social security office in the US and apply for the social security number there.
If you enter the U.S. on an immigrant visa
You can request your SSN card as part of your immigrant visa application. This way you save lots of time, as you don’t have to go to your local social security office in the United States and apply in person. The U.S. government will conveniently use the same information that you give when you apply for your immigrant visa. Your social security card will arrive to your American mailing address within three weeks after your arrival.
All you need to do to apply for your social security number along with your immigrant visa is to answer “YES” to the following questions on Form DS-230 or DS-260:
* Do you want the social security administration to assign you a SSN (and issue a card) or issue you a new card (if you have a SSN)? You must answer “Yes” to this question and to the “Consent to Disclosure” in order to receive a SSN and/or card.
* CONSENT TO DISCLOSURE; I authorize disclosure from this form to the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS), the Social Security Administration (SSA), such other U.S. Government agencies as may be required for the purpose of assigning me an SSN and issuing me a Social Security card, and I authorize the SSA to share my SSN with the INS.
* The applicant’s response does not limit or restrict the Government’s ability to obtain his or her SSN, or other information on this form, for enforcement or other purposes as authorized by law.
In case something goes wrong and you do not receive your social security card within three weeks of moving to the United States, go to your nearest Social Security office with your identification information like proof of age, identity and employment authorization.
If you enter the U.S. on a non-immigrant visa
After your arrival to the United States wait at least 10 days before you visit your local social security office – you can look up the location here. 10 days are needed by the USCIS to check your immigration status and update their data base accordingly. To prove your identity, please bring the following documents along:
– Your passport and proof of immigration status, such as your Green Card (Form I-551), Employment Authorization Document or work permit (Form I-766) and a copy of your latest I-94, which you can obtain here
– If you are an exchange visitor, staying in the US on a J-1 or J-2 visa, you must show your DS-2019. Additionally, J-1 students, student interns and international visitors need to provide a letter from their sponsor.
– If you are a student on a F-1 or M-1 visa, you need to show your form I-20.
– Your birth certificate as a proof of age
– The completed Application Form
There is no charge for a social security card and you will usually receive it within 2 weeks after submitting your application in person.
For further information about your application for a social security number and card, you can visit the social security administration online or give them a call at 1-800-772-1213, 24 hours a day 7 days a week.
When I applied for my social security number I had some issues, because the lady at our local social security office didn’t know my kind of visa. I’m staying in the United States on an E-2 work visa and because it says “2”, she kept asking me if I was married – she thought my visa was tied to an American spouse. When I said no, she tried to convince me that I arrived on a wrong visa. I had to show her information about my visa type (this is really a work visa, for employees of a Treaty country investor) online and talk to her supervisor before she believed that this is really just a work visa and has nothing to do with marriage or a spouse.
Never be afraid to ask for a supervisor if you feel like the person you are talking to doesn’t know what he/she’s doing. There are so many visa types it’s probably not easy for the employees of the social security office to know about them all.
What was your experience when you applied for your social security number? Did you have any issues or were you able to apply without troubles? I can’t wait to hear about your experience!
Would you like to learn more about the first steps to take after your move to America? Check out this article!