Obtaining A Social Security Number:

Why Is SSN Important And How To Secure It?

Introduction

The Social Security Number (SSN) is a unique number issued to all U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and to certain foreign nationals who meet the eligibility criteria. The first Social Security Number was issued in 1936 and was created simply as a way to track benefits for certain eligible employees. Since then, legislation has expanded the pool of individuals who require a SSN for a variety of reason including tracking and earning benefits, paying taxes and being eligible for a variety of federal programs. The Social Security Administration (SSA) issues Social Security Numbers (SSN) to applicants who meet the criteria.

The SSN is a nine-digit number and is unique to the individual that it is given to. The SSA is prohibited from ever re-using a number once it is allotted to an individual.

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Importance of SSN

A Social Security Number (SSN) issued by Social Security Administration, is a number issued to citizens, permanent residents, temporary (working) residents and foreign citizens in the United States. It is generally needed for employment purposes. If you plan to work in the U.S., or get a driver’s license, you generally need to have a Social Security Number.

Some of the current uses of the SSN:

  • Tracking working individuals’ earning history for allocation of federal and state benefits and insurance and for taxation purposes
  • Tracking an individual’s credit history
  • Report wages to the government
  • Many institutions also use the SSN as an identifier within their own systems

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Applying For SSN

1.U.S. Citizens: applying for an SSA for the first time must complete the Form SS-5 and verify their US citizenship, age and identity. All documents presented to the SSA must be in the original or certified copies. You can find a list of acceptable documents.

Once you have collected all the required documents, the completed application and documents must be submitted in person to your nearest local Social Security office.

For children born in the hospital in the U.S., parents can generally have the hospital where submit the required paperwork to the SSA to have the SSN and card generated. These parents don’t have to appear at the SSA.

2.Non-citizens who have work authorization from DHS: must complete the Form SS-5 and verify that they have work authorization from DHS in addition to proof of age and identity. Documents to prove work authorization may include the I-94 Number, I-797 Approval Notice and/or the employment authorization document, the Form I-20 or DS-2019. Legal permanent residents must present their I-551 card (“green card”) or their I-551 stamp in the passport and the passport

a.F-1 or M-1 student who is eligible to work “on-campus”
You must present a letter from the DSO confirming who you are, your current status in school and information about the on-campus employment. You may also be required to present evidence you have begun working or a letter from your proposed supervisor regarding the employment.

b.F-1 student who is authorized to work through curricular practical training (CPT) :
You need to provide the SSA with the properly endorsed Form I-20 with the employment page properly completed

c.J-1 student, student intern or international visitor:
In addition to the Form DS-2019, you will also need a letter from your sponsor. All other J-1 Exchange Visitors are generally authorized to work pursuant to their status so must simply show their passport, DS-2019 and I-94

Once you have collected all the required documents, the completed application and documents must be submitted in person to your nearest local Social Security office.

3.Non-citizens who do NOT have work authorization from DHS:
Lawfully admitted non-citizens who do not have work authorization from DHS are not eligible to obtain an SSN unless

a.A federal law requires you to provide your Social Security number to get a particular benefit or service or

b.A state or local law requires you to provide your Social Security number to get general assistance benefits that you already have qualified for

It’s important to remember that most non-citizens can still get most benefits and services without an SSN. For tax or IRS purposes, an Individual Tax ID Number (ITIN) may be sufficient).

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There is no charge for a Social Security number and card

Processing Time

SSA needs to verify your documents with DHS before they can assign a Social Security number to you. Most of the time, SSA can verify your documents quickly with DHS online; however, if your documents cannot be verified online, it may take DHS several weeks to respond to SSA’s request.


Can I Start Working Without SSN?

Federal regulations do not require you to have a Social Security number before you start work. However, the Internal Revenue Service requires employers to report wages using a Social Security number. While you wait for your Social Security number, your employer can use a letter from SSA stating that you applied for a number. Your employer may use your immigration documents as proof of your authorization to work in the United States.


Contacting Social Security

For more information about Social Security Administration, you may visit www.socialsecurity.gov.


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