Relocating to the U.S.? Tips to Help with Your Social Security Number

Your nine digit social security number is a very important number. All U.S. citizens, permanent residents and temporary residents who work in the U.S. have one—it’s your personal identification number. But what if you are a non-citizen coming to the U.S. to work?  Here’s some important information to help make the process of settling into your new destination as easy and seamless as possible.

The Social Security Office no longer issues SS#s for the sole purpose of obtaining a driver’s license. It is only issued if you have a work permit for filing of income taxes. This means that children and spouses do not need them, unless the spouse has a work visa.

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The Social Security Administration (SSA) web site recommends waiting 10 days after arriving in the U.S. before applying; however, our experience is that you can go immediately and not have any trouble. The number will generally be processed within 10 days and you can call back in to confirm it has been issued. The SSA won’t provide the number over the phone, so you would have to return to get it or wait on the card (which could take another couple weeks).

Here’s the best process to follow to obtain your SS#:

  1. Complete the Social Security Card Application prior to arrival in the U.S.:  http://www.ssa.gov/online/ss-5.pdf
  2. Prior to arrival, review this website for the documents to bring http://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/ (This office can copy and certify your records so that you do not have to send original documents through the mail. Your Social Security card will be mailed to you from the United States.)
  3. Arrive at least 15 minutes before the office opens to avoid lines.
  4. Use your work address, to your attention, to have the card mailed to if you don’t have a permanent address yet
  5. You’ll receive a receipt that you can provide to the bank to show that you have applied, so hold on to this.
  6. Before leaving, ask for their local office number and write it on the receipt. You’ll be calling in approximately 11-14 days to see if the number has been issued or if there are any problems. If the number has been issued, you’ll need to return to the SSA to get a printout of the number, as they cannot give it to you over the phone. The actual card will still come in the mail. Also ask if there is acertain extension you should dial and where should you go when you return for the number, and if you can make an appointment. The local number is not published. Only the national call centers are published and they will not be able to tell you the status; however, they can give you the local number.
  7. If your SSN hasn’t been issued, confirm that they have your application, if you need to do anything and the estimated time until the number is issued. Then call back in that amount of time.
  • If the SS Office can verify documents on-line immediately with INS, the time for receipt of a SS# is the normal 2 weeks.
  • If the SS Office cannot verify documents on-line, after a waiting period of 10 days, copies of the documents are sent to the INS for verification. This can take up to a waiting period of 3-12 weeks.

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