Social Security is a government program that provides financial support for people residing in the U.S. when they are retired or no longer able to work, and it is funded by taxes that are paid by people working in the United States. Therefore, you must obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) if you want to work in the United States.  Also, if a federal, state, or local law requires a SSN to get a particular benefit or service, you will need to obtain a SSN if you wish to receive that benefit.

A Social Security Number offers you many benefits, but you do not necessarily need one to do many things. You can do many things without a SSN, such as:

  • Banking and purchasing savings bonds
  • Registering for school
  • Obtaining private health insurance
  • Applying for subsidized housing or lunch programs

How Do I Apply for a Social Security Number?

You must call or visit a Social Security office and fill out a Social Security Card application. When submitting your application, you will need to provide original documents verifying your age, name, non-citizen status, and legal entry into the United States. If you want to work, you also must prove your work eligibility.

If you want a Social Security Number for a state or local government requirement, you must also provide on letterhead stationary:

  • Proof of your identity as the applicant;
  • The law requiring use of a SSN;
  • Proof that you meet the state or local agency's requirements, except for having a Social Security Number; and
  • An agency contact and telephone number.

Do I Need a Social Security Number to Pay Taxes?

Unless you are authorized to work, you do not need a SSN to pay taxes. If you do need a SSN for a tax purpose and you are not working, then you can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number from the IRS.

When Will I Get My Card?

Since your documents must be verified with other agencies, and because of heightened security measures, you should expect your card to be issued from anywhere between two weeks and three months.

Can My Employer Pay Me if I Am Still Waiting for my Social Security Card?

If you have already applied for social security card and are still waiting for its arrival, you are eligible for a paycheck. If your employer needs a SSN to issue a paycheck, the Social Security office can issue a confirmation that you have applied.

Do I Need a Lawyer?

Applying for a Social Security Card is usually a simple process. However, if you have a complex issue or were denied a card, an immigration attorney can help you resolve your problem. A lawyer can also help you deal with any other Social Security-related issues that may arise while you are in the process of applying for a Social Security Number or waiting for your card to arrive.