Social security is one of the things that makes the United States the proverbial land of milk and honey. President Franklin D. Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act on August 14, 1935 under his New Deal programs. Eighty-five years later, the program remains one of the most popular and successful programs by the US government. In fact, more than 64 million Americans (one in every 6 citizens) collected their social security benefits in June 2020. That said, social security is more than just a foundation to your retirement plan. It also gives you life and disability insurance protection in case you need it. Yet all this is not possible without making a SSN application.
What is an SSN?
It is not uncommon to see or receive requests of your SSN or Social Security Number. But what exactly is a social security number? And where can you get an SSN application? Well, a Social Security Number (SSN) is a 9-digit special number assigned to each American citizen and eligible immigrants – including permanent residents and those on employment or student visa. Notably, SSN’s are not available for tourists and certain other temporary visitors. This number helps the US government to track your life income and the cumulative number of years worked. If you retire or, God forbid, need disability income then the information will help to calculate your insurance payout. You will likely use one SSN for the rest of your life except under unique circumstances like identity theft. If your immigration status changes, your SSN will not.
An SSN, by itself, does not provide work authorization. Many of our clients are confused by this: the SSA has no power to grant work authorization for a non-citizen. That is the job of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS.) However, you do need a SSN to be hired by most employers – there is no other way to put you on their payroll unless you are paid “under the table,” which is illegal. So if you are a noncitizen, merely having an SSN is not enough: you need a work permit or other authorization to work. (Call us if you’re confused: we can help!)
What is an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number?)
If you are not eligible for an SSN, you will need to apply for an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.) An ITIN looks like an SSN in that it is 9 digits long and formatted just like an SSN (XXX-XX-XXXX). However, it will start with the number “9” and it does not provide work authorization. You need it for one purpose: to pay your taxes. (Tax returns require an SSN or ITIN).
When Will You Need To Make An SSN application ?
If the stars align and you get your dream job, you will have to furnish your employer with your SSN. Making a SSN application is a quick yet crucial process in your journey to become a citizen. This number ensures that your company can report your income to the IRS (Internal Revenue Service). Your accounting department will also have to report your Social Security contribution to the SSA (Social Security Administration). Some employers that are part of the E-verify program may require your SSN even before you start working. E-verify is an online system that allows employers to review if potential employees can work in the country. Other instances where you may need your SSN include;
- Opening a Bank Account– The US government allows banks or other financial entities to access and review your SSN using a validator. They can use it to check your credit score, report any investment profits/losses, or to manage your account. Your identity is your SSN. Guard it carefully, and never give it over the phone or to anyone you have no reason to trust.
- Signing Up for Medicare– You will also need to make a SSN application before enrolling for Medicare services. Both Medicare and Medicaid work with the SSA to help citizens and eligible residents enroll for these health programs.
- Getting A Passport– Providing your social security number is one of the requirements under federal law when applying for a passport. Applicants that proceed without providing their SSN often experience delays. You also risk a $500 fine when you get a passport without giving your social security number.
- Applying for a loan– It is impossible to get a federal loan without providing your SSN card. Student loans applicants, for example, will need to have a social security number.
- Applying for your driver’s license.
How To Apply For SSN
If you haven’t filled the DS-260 for an immigrant visa (formerly DS-230) form yet then you can apply for your SSN card at your local SSA office. This process is not as complicated as it seems. You will have to fill out form SS-5 and provide all the documents that they need. These documents may include:
- A valid passport that the machine can read.
- A green card or Resident alien card if you have one
- A birth Certificate
- I-551 stamp (showing admission for lawful permanent residence.)
Be sure to complete the form correctly. Got questions? Call us – we will help. It should only take about two weeks before you receive your SSN card, though processing takes longer during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic. That said, you may experience some delays if the USCIS needs to further review your documents. You may also do your SSN card replacement from the local SSN office or through the SSA website. If you were previously issued a SS card while on an employment-based immigration status, or with a work permit, your card likely had the words “VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION.” Once you become a permanent resident (or US citizen) you make a SSN application for a new card without this limiting language. The number itself, however, will remain the same.
Let Us Help You With Your SSN Application
A social security card is a critical document if you wish to live in the US. It can work as an identification when interacting with employers and financial institutions. The government also uses it to review your income and calculate benefit payments when necessary. That said, you need to ensure that you get your SSN card promptly if you wish to live conveniently in the US. At the HMA Law Firm, you get access to immigration attorneys with several years of experience at your service. We work to ensure that all our clients live and work freely in the United States. Call us today for help with your SSN application or for a quick consultation.