Social Security Card for Foreign Born Citizen

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Non-American citizens interested to work in the United States will have to obtain a social security number in order to be employed in the U.S. Below is information on eligibility for a social security number and how to get a social security card for foreign workers.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is a Social Security Number?

A social security number is an identification number consisting of nine digits assigned to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and non-immigrant working residents. You need a social security number to be eligible for social services, collect social security benefits, and to be employed.

Social security cards come in three different types:

1. The first type is issued to legal permanent residents of the United States. It includes the person’s name and social security number.
2. The second type is issued to temporary workers or people with non-immigrant status. They can be employed in the United States so long as the card is authorized by the Department of Homeland Services. This card can also be used to comply with I-9 eligibility requirements.
3. The third type cannot be used for employment or to satisfy I-9 requirements and is only issued for tax purposes.

Eligibility for a Social Security Number

Those with non-immigrant visa status and temporary workers authorized to work in the United States by the DHS are eligible for a social security number.

A social security number is used to so wages are reported to the government in order to determine if a person is eligible for benefits issued by Social Security. Only non-citizens authorized to work in the US are eligible for a social security number.

How to Obtain a Social Security Number

You can get a social security number in two ways:

1. Individuals aged 18 or older can apply for a social security number upon applying for an immigrant visa with the U.S. Department of State. This is where the U.S. government will get the information needed when an immigrant applies for an SSN.

You will get your social security card via your mailing address approximately three weeks after arriving in the United States. If you applied for a social security number outside of the U.S. prior to arriving, however, there’s no need to visit a Social Security office in America upon arrival.

2. If you did not apply for a social security number when you applied for an immigrant visa or you are not an immigrant, bring with you your petition and approval notices that prove your legal status as an immigrant and that you are authorized to work in the United States. You can then apply for a social security number and card in one of the Social Security offices anywhere in the U.S.

It is advised by the Social Security Administration to wait for at least ten days after arriving in the U.S. so they can verify your DHS documents online first. This will help speed up the process of your application for a social security number. Note that all applications for a social security number in all U.S. states are free.

What to Prepare to Obtain a Social Security Card for Foreign Born Citizen

  • Two original documents that prove your age, work eligibility, immigration status, and identity.
  • An SS-5, the application form you need to apply for a social security card.

There are many different types of documents you can use in order to proof your identity and your work-authorized status. For example, you can use a work permit. You can also use your I-94 Arrival/Departure Record, an employment-based admission stamp, or your immigrant visa – basically, any document that indicates that you have been authorized to work in American soil.

Both American citizens and foreigners are required to give Social Security certain documents upon SSN application:

  • Evidence of identity. These documents must clearly indicate your legal name and preferably must have a photograph or physical description of your appearance, including your eye and hair color, weight, and height. This could be in the form of a U.S. passport, driver’s license, or a state-issued nondriver identity card. For non-US citizens, Social Security will require that you present your foreign passport and immigration documents.
  • Evidence of age. Your birth certificate is enough as proof. You can also prove your age using an adoption record, a U.S. passport, or a record of your birth at any U.S. hospital.
  • Evidence of immigration status. If you are a foreign citizen, you must present the documents issued by Homeland Services that prove your legal status as an immigrant and that you are authorized to work in the U.S.
  • Evidence of U.S. citizenship. These documents include a birth certificate, a consular report of birth or a certificate of naturalization, and a U.S. passport.

What about Foreign Exchange Visitors and International Students?

International Students or Foreign Exchange Visitors are allowed to work part-time. They only need to bring additional documentation in order to prove their status. For international students, present your recent I-20 Certificates of Eligibility for Non-immigrant Student Status. For foreign exchange students, you will need to present the DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status.

Note that only original documents will be honored to be granted of a Social Security card for foreign born citizen. Notarized copies or photocopies of these documents are not allowed and will be rejected.

When Will I Receive My Social Security Card as a New Immigrant?

If you’re planning to immigrate to the United States, you will be required to present certain documents, as indicated above. Depending on your immigrant visa, you will become a permanent resident of the U.S. and this is the reason why you will need a social security number. This is one of the most basic requirements if you want to work or do business with a bank or any financial institutions in the U.S. Your social security number is also needed so you can pay taxes.

Requesting for an SSN with Your Visa

If you applied for a social security number together with your visa, the authorities will share any information you gave for your visa to the social security department. This eliminates the task of having to fill up an application form or manually visit a social security office just to apply. Upon arriving in the U.S., you will be given you’re your social security number and card.

If you already have a social security number, you will be given a replacement card. Your social security card can be mailed to your mailing address within three weeks after arriving in the United States. Call the social security office right away if you didn’t receive your card within that time period.

Requesting for an SSN without Your Visa

If you applied for your social security number separately from your visa, you will have to follow a different procedure. You’ll have to proceed to a local social security office and apply for a number yourself. If you already have a permanent address, contact the office and find out where the nearest social security office is. Bring with you the following documents:

  • Your birth certificate
  • A valid passport with an endorsement for an immigrant visa

All the information you provided during the application is confidential, so you need not worry about it. Government agencies, however, can receive your information as per the Privacy Act, so they can verify your identity and process documents faster, but never third parties. Your social security number is safe from any third party source.

Once you receive your card, always keep it where it’s safe and be wary of misuse of your personal information and identity theft. For more information, you can visit

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