What is a Social Security Number and Why Do I Need One?

Migrant Resources

What is a Social Security Number and Why Do I Need One?

Everything you need to know about SSNs

A Social Security number, often called an SSN, is a very important nine-digit number that everyone who wants to work in the US needs.  When you arrive with your immigrant visa, you will be considered a permanent resident.  Every permanent resident needs an SSN.  It’s important because you need it to get a job, it will help you get a bank account and it’s important for tax purposes. 

You should always keep your SSN card in a safe place with other important documents and not share it with anyone unnecessarily. 

All information you provide while getting an SSN is confidential and will not be shared with third parties.

How Do I Get an SSN? 

Your SSN will be printed on a Social Security card.  They are distributed at a Social Security office near you.   To apply you must go in person and take the following documentation:

  • Your passport with your machine-readable immigrant visa (MRIV) or your permanent resident card (Form I-551) 
  • Your birth certificate and a birth certificate for each family member applying for an SSN.
  • Form I-94, which is  your arrival and departure record. 
  • Form I-766, which is your employment authorization document (EAD)

A Social Security representative will help you complete the application and it usually takes two weeks to be processed.  If any of your documents need verification, it may take longer. All must be originals or copies certified by the issuing agency.  The Social Security office will not accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents.  They also will not accept a receipt showing you applied for the document. 

Did You Request an SSN when You Applied for your Visa?

If you requested an SSN card as part of your visa application, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) will notify the Social Security office and give them the necessary information.  You will not need to fill out an application or go to the Social Security office in person to get it.  Your SSN card will be sent to the same mailing address as to where you receive your permanent residence. You should receive your card within three weeks of arriving in the US. 

Anything Else I Need to Know About an SSN?

In the US, you can call and speak to someone at the Social Security office anytime. Their automated line is open 24/7.

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