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General Guidance for Obtaining a SSN

If you are a non-citizen planning to work or reside in the United States, obtaining a Social Security Number (SSN) is a crucial step. Here is everything you need to know about the process, from eligibility to application tips.

Who can get an SSN?

Only noncitizens authorized to work in the U.S. by the Department of Homeland Security can obtain an SSN. This nine-digit number is essential for reporting wages to the government and determining eligibility for Social Security benefits.

Why do you need an SSN?

An SSN is necessary for:

  • Employment
  • Collecting Social Security benefits
  • Accessing various government services

However, you don’t need an SSN for:

  • Getting a driver’s license
  • Registering for school
  • Obtaining private health insurance
  • Applying for school lunch programs or subsidized housing

Applying for an SSN

If you are applying from your home country, you can file an application for an immigrant visa with the U.S. Department of State. If you are applying in the United States, contact your local Social Security office to start the application process.

Required Documents

To apply for an SSN, you must prove your identity and work-authorized immigration status. Acceptable documents include Form I-551 (Lawful Permanent Resident Card), Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Card), Form I-766 (Employment Authorization Document). You will also need to verify your age and identity by completing an Application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5).

Application Tips

  • There is no fee for applying for an SSN
  • If you cannot apply immediately, it is recommended to wait 10 days after arriving in the U.S. This allows for easier verification of DHS documents online and speeds up the process.
  • If you are not authorized to work, you may still apply for an SSN to receive specific government benefits or services. Proof of identity and age is required.


Navigating the SSN application process can seem daunting, but with the right information and preparation it becomes manageable. Consulting with an immigration lawyer (like those at Berardi Immigration Law) can be helpful as they can assist you in obtaining a Social Security Number and easing your integration into American life. For more information on Social Security please visit Social Security Number and Card | SSA.