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Applying for a Social Security Card

Written by Henry J. Chang

Application Form

An alien is required to apply for a Social Security Card before he or she can be paid by the employer. Applications for Social Security Cards are made using Form SS-5. A downloadable Form SS-5 is available from the Social Security Administration website in Adobe PDF format. Download the free Adobe Acrobat Reader to use the form.

Supporting Documentation

In addition to the application form, the Social Security Office normally requires evidence of age, citizenship, and identity. According to the instructions to Form SS-5, this normally means providing a birth certificate. In addition to a birth certificate, the Social Security Office requires one additional document showing identity. An applicant who is not a U.S. citizen must provide a foreign birth certificate or passport and proof of lawful status in the United States.

With regard to proof of status, this usually means the I-94 Departure record issued to a nonimmigrant alien upon entry to the United States or the Form I-551 Alien Registration Receipt Card (green card) issued to lawful permanent residents. The Social Security Office must be shown the original documents. Persons who are 18 or older who are applying for their first Social Security Card must apply in person.

Social Security Cards for Nonimmigrant Dependents

Dependents who are not authorized to work in the United States may still be issued Social Security Cards, if they are in the country legally and need a card for some other valid reason. Such a Social Security Card will be marked to show that the alien cannot work.

Even if a nonimmigrant dependent cannot obtain a Social Security Card, they can obtain a tax number from the Internal Revenue Service which will permit them to be claimed as dependents on the principal alien's U.S. income tax return.

Where to Apply

Applicants should apply for their Social Security Card at the nearest Social Security Office. A list of offices appears on the Social Security Administration website.

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