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What is Social Security Number? Can Non-Citizens Get an SSN?

What is Social Security Number? Can Non-Citizens Get an SSN?

If you are a non-citizen of the U.S. and pursuing employment in the country, then you will require having a Social Security Number (SSN). While SSN is typically assigned to U.S. citizens and permanent residents, even eligible non-immigrant workers can apply for an SSN. In this blog, we will understand what is Social Security Number and how non-citizens can get an SSN.

What is a Social Security Number?

The SSN is a 9-digit number issued by the United States Social Security Administration to U.S. citizens and individuals holding permanent residency in the country. However, if you are a temporary working resident in the U.S. under section 205(c) (2) of the Social Security Act, then you are also eligible to apply for an SSN.

what is social security number

Originally, the sole purpose of a Social Security Number card was to track the earning history of U.S. workers to determine their Social Security eligibility for benefit entitlements and its computation. But today, it has become an unofficial identification number, primarily used for tax filing in the U. S., opening a bank account, getting a loan, or finding a job in the country.

Does a Non-Citizen Require a Social Security Number?

Non-citizens can apply for an SSN as a part of their immigration process. This means when you apply for an immigrant visa with the USCIS, you can simultaneously apply for an SSN card. However, while understanding what is Social Security Number, it is important to know that only non-citizens who are authorized by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to work in the United States can get an SSN card.

If you are a lawfully admitted immigrant and do not work in the U.S., then you probably do not need a SSN. Even without an SSN card, you can get many services and benefits, such as:

  • Get a driver’s license
  • Apply for school admission or lunch programs
  • Get private health insurance
  • Applying for public assistance schemes such as subsidized housing

how to apply social security number

Though credit companies and banks may ask you for your SSN, it is not required to provide one.

Who Can Apply for a SSN?

You need to know what is Social Security Number and how to apply for one if you are:

  • A non-citizen of the United States applying to enter the country as a temporary work resident, or
  • Individuals holding non-immigrant visas and those who are authorized by the Department of Homeland Security to work in the U.S.
  • A lawfully admitted permanent resident

Refugees and those with a non-employment-based temporary visa status without DHS authorization to work in the United States are not eligible to apply for an SSN.

How to Apply for Social Security Number?

There are two ways non-citizens can apply for a SSN:

1) If you are 18 years or older, the Social Security Administration gives you the option to apply for an SSN in your home country right when you apply for an immigrant visa. This will help you save time and hassles knowing what is Social Security Number, finding or visiting a local Social Security office in person, and waiting in the queue to apply for the SSN.

what is ssn

Rather, the U.S. government will use the information on your immigration visa application to apply for a SSN. When you arrive in the U.S., you may receive the SSN card at your new mailing address within 3 weeks of your application.

2) If you have not applied for an SSN during your visa application, you need to follow these steps:

  • Visit the SSA website and complete the application procedure for an SSN card
  • Provide original documents that validate your identity, age, and work-authorized immigration status
  • Submit the application and all original documents to a local Social Security office

For more information on required documents, click here.

International students and Exchange Visitors may also apply for an SSN only if they are authorized to work in the United States.

Seek Expert Consultation

It is not surprising for non-citizens to understand what is Social Security Number, the purpose of SSN, and how to apply for one. In such cases, it is important to have an expert help you navigate the challenges and apply successfully. 

We are Ready to Help You

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