Your nine-digit Social Security number remains your first and continuous link with Social Security. It helps us accurately record your covered wages or self-employment earnings. We also use it to monitor your record once you start getting benefits.
Why Do I Need One?
You need a Social Security number to get a job, collect Social Security benefits and get some other government services. But you don’t often need to show your Social Security card. Do not carry your card with you. Keep it in a safe place with your other important papers.
Original Card for a Noncitizen Adult
In general, only noncitizens who have permission to work from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can apply for a Social Security number. If you do not have permission to work but need a Social Security number for other purposes, see “If you do not have permission to work” for further information.
All documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. We cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. We also cannot accept a receipt showing you applied for the document.
Get a certified copy of a document showing a birth, marriage or divorce that took place in the U.S.
What original documents do I need?
To prove your U.S. immigration status, you must show us your current U.S. immigration document, such as Form I-551 (Lawful Permanent Resident Card, Machine Readable Immigrant Visa) with your unexpired foreign passport, I-766 (Employment Authorization Document, EAD, work permit) or I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) or admission stamp in the unexpired foreign passport. If you are an F-1 or M-1 student, you also must show us your I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status). If you are a J-1 or J-2 exchange visitor, you must show us your DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status).
In general, only noncitizens who have permission to work from DHS can apply for a Social Security number. If you are a foreign worker, we only need to see your I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record) or admission stamp in the unexpired foreign passport showing a class of admission permitting work. Some foreign workers must show their I-766 (Employment Authorization Document, EAD, work permit) from DHS.
Student: If you are an F-1 student and eligible to work on campus, you must provide a letter from your designated school official that:
- Identifies you;
- Confirms your current school status; and
- Identifies your employer and the type of work you are, or will be, doing.
We also need to see evidence of that employment, such as a recent pay slip or a letter from your employer. Your supervisor must sign and date the letter. The letter must describe:
- Your job;
- Your employment start date;
- The number of hours you are, or will be, working; and
- Your supervisor’s name and telephone number.
If you are an F-1 student authorized to work in curricular practical training (CPT), you must provide us your Form I-20 with the employment page (page 3) completed and signed by your designated school official.
If you are an F-1 student and have a work permit (Form I-766) from DHS, you must present it.
If you are a J-1 student, student intern or international visitor, you must provide a letter from your sponsor. The letter should be on sponsor letterhead with an original signature that authorizes your employment.
If you do not have permission to work: Lawfully admitted noncitizens can get many benefits and services without a Social Security number. You do not need a number to conduct business with a bank, register for school, apply for educational tests, obtain private health insurance, apply for school lunch programs or apply for subsidized housing. You cannot get a Social Security number for the sole purpose of obtaining a driver’s license.
Government benefits or services: If you do not have permission to work, you may apply for a Social Security number only if:
- A federal law requires you to provide your Social Security number to get a particular benefit or service; or
- A state or local law requires you to provide your Social Security number to get general assistance benefits for which you already have qualified.
If you need a number to meet these state or local requirements, you must bring us a letter from the government agency. It must be on letterhead stationery (no form letters or photocopies) and:
- Specifically identify you as the applicant;
- Cite the law requiring you to have a Social Security number;
- Indicate that you meet all the agency’s requirements, except having the number; and
- Contain an agency contact name and telephone number.
Taxes: If you need a number for tax purposes and you are not authorized to work in the United States, you can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Visit IRS in person or call the IRS toll-free number, 1-800-TAXFORM (1-800-829-3676), and request Form W-7 (Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number).
If you are assigned a number for non-work purposes, you cannot use it to work. If you use it to work, we will inform DHS.
You must present your foreign birth certificate if you have it or can get it within 10 days. If not, we will consider other documents such as your passport or a document issued by DHS as evidence of your age.
Anyone age 12 or older requesting an original Social Security number MUST be interviewed by Social Security. We will ask for evidence to show you do not have a Social Security number. If you lived outside the United States for an extended period, a current or previous passport, school and/or employment records, and any other record that would show long-term residence outside the United States could be used to show you do not have a Social Security number.
Social Security will ask to see a current DHS document. Acceptable documents include:
- Form I-551 (includes machine-readable immigrant visa) with unexpired foreign passport;
- I-94 or admission stamp in the unexpired foreign passport; or
- I-766 (Employment Authorization Document, EAD, work permit) from DHS.
We may use one document for two purposes. For example, we may use a DHS work permit as proof of both immigration status and identity. However, you must provide at least two separate documents.