Social Security numbers are typically issued to U.S. Citizens and noncitizens who want to work in the United States. These numbers allow the government to keep track of individual wages and determine eligibility for Social Security benefits. If you lack permission to work in the U.S., you can apply for a nonwork Social Security number. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), Social Security numbers are needed to work, collect Social Security benefits and receive various other government services. Nonresidents do not need a Social Security number to get a driver's license, register for school, or apply for subsidized housing.
Applying for an SSN from Outside the U.S.
Complete the Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration form DS-230 from your home country. This form allows you to apply to live and work in the United States while simultaneously applying for a Social Security number. The form is available on the SSA website.
Answer 'Yes' to Questions 43a. about whether or not you would like the SSA to assign you a Social Security number and issue a card. Answer 'Yes' to Question 43b to authorize disclosure to certain U.S. Government agencies and receive a Social Security number.
Bring your completed application to your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate, who will then send it on to the Department of Homeland Security.
You should receive your Social Security card within three weeks of entering the United States. If the card does not arrive, visit your nearest Social Security office or Card Center, remembering to bring proof of age, identity, and employment authorization.
Applying for an SSN from Within the U.S.
If you did not apply for a Social Security number prior to arriving in the United States, you need to fill out Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card. Wait at least 10 days after your arrival in the U.S. before applying for your Social Security number.
Attach a minimum of two original documents that prove your identity, immigration status, work eligibility and age. These documents must be originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. Photocopies and notarized copies will not be accepted. See the SSA website for a list of accepted documents.
Take your completed application and documents to your nearest Social Security Office. Once the SSA has received all of your information and has verified your documents, your number and card will be mailed to you. Processing times vary.
Items you will need
- Documents confirming identity
- Form SS-5 or Form DS-230
- There is no fee to apply for a Social Security number.
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