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How to Get a Social Security Number (SSN)

You have finally arrived in the USA – your new home after months, if not years of prep work and visa/greencard paperwork. So let’s not waste any time and get you started with some essentials like how to obtain your Social Security Number (SSN).
It’s recommended to wait 10 to 14 days after you’ve entered the US before you apply for one, because the Social Security Administration needs to verify your immigration documents with the Department of Homeland Services (DHS) first. Then you’re officially in the system and can apply for your SSN.

Why do I need one?

Most importantly your employer will need your SSN to report your earnings to the government. It’s also needed to determine your eligibility for Social Security benefits. Besides that, there are many situations in the near future where you’ll be asked for your SSN like when opening a bank account, getting insurance for your car or renting an apartment. And even if you technically don’t need it for the situations mentioned, it’ll make the process much easier if you have one.

Who’s eligible for a SSN?

You do need to be authorized to work in order to apply for a Social Security Number. If you’re the spouse of a visa holder, you may have to get your work permit first before you can obtain a SSN, depending on your visa type.

How to apply?

There are two ways to apply – by mail or in person at your local Social Security office. I would recommend to go there in person to answer any potential questions and to speed up the process. Click here to find the nearest location. Try to call and make an appointment to cut down on waiting time, but if you don’t get one you can just show up during business hours. Make sure to be early, because there will be, you guessed it, a very long line of people wanting the same thing than you. Being an early bird helps. The office won’t hesitate to send people home if they’re about to close no matter how long you stood in line.

What information is required?

You’ll have to proof your identity and immigration status, work eligibility and age with 2 original documents. Non-citizen will have to provide their visa/greencard incl. foreign passport and I-94 record. Students also have to show their I-20.
Download a copy of Form SS-5 and fill it out. That’s the application for a Social Security Card. For more information on required documents visit www.ssa.gov.
I suggest that you bring all kinds of proof like your passport, birth certificate, marriage license, drivers license, visa or greencard to make sure they’re not sending you back because you don’t have the required 2 original documents to proof who you are.

When do I get my Social Security Card?

After you’ve submitted all information it can take up to 4 weeks until you receive your card in the mail. However, the Social Security Office will be able to tell you your new Social Security Number while you’re applying for it in their office. And that’s really all you need to give to your employer. The card is just the official document, that you should never carry around anyways. Keep it in a secure place once you receive it.

Photo: © intheskies – Fotolia.com
 
 
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