Social Security Number

A Step-By-Step Guide on How A Non-US Citizen Can Get A Social Security Number

Ever wondered how, where, and when a non-US citizen can acquire a social security number? Well, it’s not as easy as it sounds. The process itself can be quite daunting if you don’t know how to go about getting it. For the most part, you only need an American social security number if interested in working in the US. Your social security number is what the United States government uses to track and report your wages and use it to determine your eligibility to receive social security benefits. You must have a social security number to have work done in the US and collect any social security benefits. You can also enjoy other government services provided you have a social security number.

Defining a social security number

Mostly called an SSN. It is a nine-digit identification number that the US government gives to its citizens. The US government can offer the SSN to both the permanent residents and the non-immigrant working residents in the US. Social security numbers come in three different types which include:

Social Security Number
source: wikipedia
  • The most common ones have the owner’s name and social security number. It is typically given to the US citizens and other legal permanent residents.
  • One designated for the temporary workers and ones in the non-immigrant status
  • Another one is issued for tax purposes and isn’t used toward employment.

The lawfully admitted US noncitizens stand a chance of getting much more benefits and services even without a social security number. Take attaining a driver’s license, for example, getting private health insurance, and even registering for school. Non-US citizens can also enjoy subsidized housing without necessarily having a social security number. Take it, therefore, that you cannot be assigned a social security number just because you wish to get a driver’s license or some other service that involves a credit check. But even still, other companies like banks and credit companies will always request for your social security number. However, you are not obliged to provide them with one if you don’t have.

Regarding work, some organizations can use your number to gather records and other document filing processes to identify you. Most, however, can identify you by other means if you wish.

How to get a social security number and card

Obtaining a social security number in the United States takes different steps depending on your situation. You will have to be 18 years or older to be eligible to get a social security number.

Immigrants can apply for social security numbers in one of two ways which include:

Visiting a social security office in person

Asking for an SSN in your home country before moving to the United States. In most instances, going this route relinquishes you from visiting the social security office in the US.

The non-immigrants also have two ways of applying for a social security number:

  • Being lawfully present in the US with a visa that allows you to work. This website provides additional info about the work visa. 
  • Being legally present in the US and intend to apply for work authorization

What you need to apply for an SSN as a non-US citizen

First, you must prove your identity to the social security officers and valid work-authorized immigration status. You will need to provide your current US immigration documents and unexpired foreign passport to the security office for document filing.

Before you acquire a social security number in the United States, you must verify your age by presenting your foreign birth certificate. If, however, you do not have it in your possession at the time, then you are required to submit it within ten business days after application. If not, then the SSN office can consider assessing other documents which may include your unexpired passport or any other document that has been issued by the DHS as evidence to prove your age.

How to complete your SSN application

The only way of attaining a social security number in the United States is by completing the application. Most people fill their SSN application forms at the social security office. However, you can also download a copy of the form on the website and print it out, fill it, then take it with you to the social security office.

While presenting your completed application form, it is essential that you have all the documents either as originals or as copies that are certified by their issuing agencies. The agency does not accept any photocopies or notarized copies of these documents. The agency will also not take any receipt/s showing that you applied for the document.

In some instances, the agency may use one of your documents for two or multiple purposes. Your passport or birth certificate can, for example, be used to show proof of age. However, it is still essential that you provide these two separate documents to avoid any inconveniences during the application process.

When to apply for a social security number

If you plan on applying for a social security number in the united states as a noncitizen, the agency recommends that you wait at least ten days upon arriving in the US. This helps to make it easier for the agency to verify your DHS documents which can speed up the whole SSN application process.

After verification, the agency will then mail you your social security card number provided all the information you provide the issuing office checks out.

Social Security Number

Can you apply for a social security number and card for other reasons?

Yes! You can apply for an SSN in the United States even if it is not for work-related reasons. You, however, need to provide a valid reason on why you need the SSN provided it is non-work related. It is possible especially if a state requires that you have a social security number to enjoy any of the social security benefits. Provided you’ve already established entitlement of these benefits, then you are eligible to apply for and obtain a social security number and card.

If, however, you need the SSN for tax purposes but are not authorized to work in the US, you can apply for the Individual Taxpayer Identification Number instead from the Internal Revenue Service. In such a case, you will also need to contact the IRS or visit them in person and request for Form W-7.

If a government agency or some other business asks for your social security number but you do not have any, you can ask them if they can identify you by other means. In most instances, you will get the license or service that you need without the social security number.

How to contact social security

There are numerous ways that you can use to contact social security in the United States. However, the most convenient way of contacting the agency anytime is by visiting their main website, If you cannot access the internet at that time, then you can contact the agency through an automated telephone service which is available 24/7. You can also call the agency if you want to speak in person with one of the customer service agents. Either way, the agency will always try its best to get back to you.

The answer to your question; yes, you can apply for and get a social security number and the card even as a non-US citizen.

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