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Apply for Social Security Number

As soon as you arrive in the US on a work visa, you must get a Social Security Number (SSN) immediately. The SSN is required for the following purposes: Working in the U.S. Getting Social Security benefits, and, Receiving some other government services Remember that your SSN is not an identification number. You must protect your SSN like other important papers such as salary slips, passport, I-797, etc. You are not required to show your Social Security card everywhere and you must not carry the card with you. Initially you will need the SSN to work in the U.S., open a bank account, and obtain benefits from U.S. agencies. Since it is a unique number consider as your own 'tracking number'. The Social Security number is used by the Internal Revenue Service as an identifier in processing your tax returns. You will also need it to apply for a drivers license, phone, internet, or cable connection.

Why should I apply for the SSN?

You must apply for the SSN. Merely getting the H1B visa is not enough. Without a social security number you are not allowed to legally work in the U.S. The SSN is a unique number given by the social security administration (SSA). Every individual is required to be registered with government by law. Your social security number is a 9 digit number made up of 3 parts called the AREA (XXX), GROUP (XX), and SERIAL (XXXX). The first 3 digits represent the state where you applied it. The other parts are unique.

Why is it important to keep the Social Security Number private?

Your Social Security number is frequently used as an identification number to access many computer databases like your bank account, credit report, tax information, etc. As such it is like your complete life sketch. Anyone with your SSN can access all your personal and professional information. Hence there is a risk of fraud and anyone can use your SSN to access your bank account, credit accounts, utilities records, and other important information. Therefore you must protect your SSN.

How to get the SSN?

Getting the SSN is a simple procedure.
  • Go to the nearest SSA office,
  • Fill up an Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5); and
  • Show original documents or copies certified by the issuing agency proving your immigration status [including a work permit by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ], passport, identity card (ID)
  • Get a receipt
  • Receive the SSN in 2-3 weeks via mail on your residence address. On the H1B visa you are an immigrant to the country and not a citizen. You will be asked for the following papers by the Social Security:
  • Form I-551 (includes machine-readable immigrant visa with your unexpired foreign passport);
  • I-94 with your unexpired foreign passport; or
  • Work permit card from the Department of Homeland Security (I-766 or I-688B).

I have lost my SSN. What do I do to replace a lost card?

To get a replacement card, you will need to:
  • Complete the Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5);
  • Show proof of your identity;
  • Show evidence of your current legal noncitizen status if you are on the H1B visa.
You will not get a new number. Your replacement card will have the same details and number as your previous card.

Tips

Do not give your social security number to anyone, unless you are convinced it is required. You will be required to give the last four digits of your social security number on many occasions. For example if you call the customer service number for your cable account, the associate will definitely ask for this number. Giving your number is voluntary even when you are asked for the number directly. If requested, you must verify:

  • Why your number is needed;
  • Can you supply some alternate information;
  • How your number will be used;
  • What happens if you refuse; and
  • What law requires you to give your number
  • The answers from the associate can help you decide if you want to give your Social Security number or not. If you suspect something you can simply refuse to give this information.
  • Never print your Social Security Number on your checks, business cards, address labels etc.
  • Do not carry your SSN card in your wallet.
  • Do not throw any paper with your SSN information. Always use a shredder before disposing important papers. Identity theft is a big problem in the U.S. You can protect yourself by protecting your important documents.
  • The local social security office is listed under U.S. Government agencies in your telephone directory or you may call Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.
  • If you do not have a telephone directory, you may locate the nearest Social Security office on the Internet at
http://www.socialsecurity.gov