Applying for Social Security number in the United States
Social security number (SSN) is a nine digit number issued by Social Security administration (SSA) which serves as your ‘national’ identification for numerous purposes in the United States.
What is the purpose of social security number?
You will need an SSN for pretty much everything in the US. For instance, SSN is required when applying for:
- Credit card
- Opening a bank account
- Renting a place
- Buying a car
- When you apply to get a mortgage, car loan or whatever in US, you will need to show your credit rating and a credit rating cannot be established without an SSN which ties all your credit aspects together.
Who can get a social security number?
In general, if you are NOT a US citizen, you will be eligible to apply for SSN only if you are authorized to work in the US. The only way someone on an F1 visa (student) can get an SSN is by documented authorization from the school to work on campus, or in case of J1 visa holders with a letter issued by employer in order to pay for the training/work performed in US.
What documents do you need?
You will need at least two documents, including:
- Visa stamp page with an unexpired passport
- Work permit documents, eg: for H1B visa holders this would be Form I797.
If you are US citizen then you will need:
- Birth certificate (you can also use your passport for this purpose)
- U.S. Driver’s license (unexpired)
Can I take copies of my documents?
No. You have to present yourself at the social security office with ALL original documents (copies certified by the ‘issuing agency’ are acceptable. For passport – your passport office in your home country or embassy would be considered issuing agency). Social security officer will verify all the documents against your application.
Note: Even though you may be able to mail your documents – as SSA will need to see original documents we do not recommend mailing. That is why we mentioned the need to visit personally.
Where do I apply and what are the steps involved?
Step 1: complete the application Form SS5. Instructions to complete the form are provided within the form.
Step 2: Print out the completed application, put together all the documents required along with completed and signed application form
Step 3: Schedule an appointment with your local Social Security Office. Visit: www.ssa.gov/locator/ for location details.
Step 4: Visit the Social Security Office and present your application and documents.
Step 5: Wait for the social security card to arrive in 10-14 business days.
Step 6:If your card does not arrive, contact your local social security office.
Step 7: Once the card is received, ensure ALL your details are printed correctly.
What if my details on the SS card are not printed correctly?
If you have a name change or notice that your details are not spelled correctly – contact your local social security office immediately and schedule an appointment. When you visit them – take official documents showing your correct name. You may be asked to apply for a replacement card with correct details Your SSN will not change, in this case, only your details will be updated.
Do not confuse social security number with an individual tax identification number (ITIN):
As stated earlier, you can apply for SSN only if you are eligible to work in the US. If you are looking to claim your kids on your tax returns who do not work, they do not need and may not be eligible for an SSN. In this instance, you can apply for a ITIN with your tax returns by completing Form W7 and attaching copies of passport (including visa page) ‘certified’ by issuing agency OR by visiting your local Internal Revenue Service center (IRS) Tax Assistance Center with your dependents and their original documents. More info on ITINs is here:
Disclaimer: Please note that the above information is provided based on our experience and research and is NOT intended to be used as an advice. Please consult professionals if you need assistance.