Life in USA
Life in USA
Posted By Karthik

Apply for SSN – Process for Newcomers to USA


(Last Updated On: April 20, 2019)

The Social Security Number (SSN) is a nine-digit identification number issued by the US government to its citizens, non-immigrant workers and permanent residents.

If you are not an American citizen, wanting to work in the US, obtaining an SSN is mandatory. Apart from this, the SSN is also needed if you want to access services from banks or financial institutions, pay taxes and be eligible for tax returns, social security benefits and other federal government welfare services.

As soon as you enter the US on an H1B work visa, you must start the process of obtaining a Social Security Number. Here are the details of the application process for getting an SSN.

Who is Eligible for a Social Security Number?

People with a non-immigrant visa status, who are allowed to work and live in the United States by the Department of Homeland Security can apply for an SSN.

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This identification number is used by the American government to find out whether an individual is eligible for social security benefits. Apart from this, it is also used to keep track of the overall profile of the individual.

People who do not have work authorization and have a non-employment-based temporary visa, such as ESTA, are not allowed to apply for a social security number.

Application Process for SSN

Immediately after arriving in the United States on a work visa, follow the steps given below to get your social security number:

  • Visit the nearest Social Security Administration (SSA) office.
  • Fill Form SS-5 to apply for a social security card.
  • Show the original documents, which are certified by the issuing authority, to prove your immigration status.
  • You will get a receipt, acknowledging the submission of SS-5 form. Keep it safe.
  • After this, you will receive your social security number via post, at the residential address you had provided on the form.

Documents Required to Apply for SSN

Since an H1B, F1 or J1/J2 visa shows that you are an immigrant and not a US citizen, you will need to submit the following documents when you apply for an SSN:

  • Your I-94 card, along with you’re a valid foreign passport or a work permit card provided by the Department of Homeland Security, such as I-688B or I-766.
  • Form I-551, which includes a machine-readable visa, with your existing passport.
  • Proof of employment, such as Employment Authorization Document (EAD), offer letter or I-20 endorsed for CPT.
  • DS 2019 (in case of J1/J2 visa holders)
  • Original SEVIS I-20 (for F1 visa holders)

How to Locate the Nearest SSA Office?

Follow the steps given below to find the SSA office closest to your location:

  • Visit https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp
  • Enter your city’s zip code or find it on Google and then enter it
  • You will get the timings, directions and the address of the closest SSA office

After receiving your SSN, keep it in a safe place and do not share it with anyone, except authorized government agencies. This is because the SSN might be misused to carry out identity fraud and cause you a lot of damage.


Having lived in 3+ countries, worked for companies small and big in USA, Middle East & India, I have a lot of stories to share about international travel, immigration and living as an NRI in the US. Add me on WhatsApp if you have any queries (+001-408-489-4785)