Social Security Number (SSN)

Getting Your Social Security Number

Local Social Security Answers

Most anything is tied to the social security number, applying for one will have to be your number one priority after arrival. You can find a lot of useful information at

If you live in the city, simply go to the Social Security offices at 77 West Jackson Blvd., Chicago, IL 60604 and proceed to the third floor. To apply for the SSN card, you’ll need to bring your passport with your visa. For certain visas you may not be eligible for an SSN and for some you may first need to apply for a work-permit (ex. L2).
It may take up to 4 weeks for you to receive the SSN Card. If you will move after your first application, make sure to communicate your change of address or ensure that mail sent to your old address is forwarded. The SSN offices are not known for their efficiency nor willingness to help.

The application can only be done at the SSN offices, where you need to fill out an application form.

Do note that for most government services, cash or credit card are not always accepted so always bring your checkbook when doing business with Uncle Sam.

General Answers to Obtaining a SSN for Non-Citizens

Non-Citizens can receive a Social Security number (SSN) when he or she: 

(1) is admitted to the United States for permanent residence;
(2) is admitted temporarily with permission to work; or 
(3) changes his or her legal work status.

To obtain a Social Security number, an applicant must submit evidence of age, identity, and United States (U.S.) citizenship or legal noncitizen status. Social Security needs to see unexpired documents such as Form I-551, I-94, I-688B, or I-766 issued by the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, and they must be submitted in person to a Social Security office to apply for an SSN.  The office will not accept a receipt showing application for the document.

Effective October 27, 2003, no SSN will be assigned when your only reason for needing an SSN is to comply with a state statute requiring an SSN for the issuance of a driver’s license.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will assign an SSN to a noncitizen who is not otherwise eligible for one, who is lawfully admitted to the United States but is not authorized to work by the DHS, if one of the following non-work purposes applies: 

(1)  A federal statute or regulation requires the non-citizen to provide his or her SSN to get a particular benefit or service; or 
(2) A state or local law requires the noncitizen to provide his or her SSN to get general assistance benefits to which entitlement has been established.

To be issued an SSN for the nonwork purposes discussed above, the noncitizen must provide (1) evidence of age, identity, and appropriate noncitizen status and (2) a letter dated and on letterhead stationery from the federal government (or the state agency providing the benefit or service financed by federal funds). The letter must contain the following information:

-- The identity of the noncitizen;
-- The nonwork reason the SSN is needed;
-- The relevant statute or regulation;
-- The name and telephone number of an official the Social Security Administration can contact to verify the information; and
-- A statement that says that the noncitizen has completed all the requirements to receive the benefit or service except for an SSN.

For such purposes, the Social Security Administration assigns a number and issue a card with the legend ""Not Valid for Employment."" The SSA advises the applicants that the numbers they are assigned are not for employment purposes and that it will notify the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services if the SSA receives wage reports under the number.

Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card, is the appropriate form to request either an original Social Security number or a replacement card.   The form includes instructions for completing the application and discusses the documents that must be submitted with it.

When requesting a Social Security number card, provide original documents or copies certified by the issuing agency that show your age, identity, and lawful alien status (including your permission to work in the U.S.). You must provide at least two documents.  The SSA cannot accept uncertified or notarized photocopies as evidence since they cannot verify their authenticity.

You may request Form SS-5 by calling toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213 or access Form SS-5 by clicking here.   To read and print the form at your personal computer, you will need a copy of the Adobe Acrobat Reader software. This software is available free of charge from Adobe’s Internet server by clicking here.

After you have installed and used the reader software to print the application form, complete the form and take it or mail it, along with the required identifying documents, to the nearest Social Security office.

Please note that if you are age 18 or older and applying for an original card, you must apply in person.

You can obtain the address and directions to the nearest Social Security office by clicking here.

The SSN office must verify your documents with DHS before it will issue an SSN card.  The office will issue the card within two days of receiving verification from DHS. Most of the time, the SSN Office can quickly verify your documents online with DHS. If DHS can’t verify your documents online, it may take several weeks or months to respond to Social Security’s request. For more details, please see the answer to the Frequently Asked Question (FAQ), ""How is SSA protecting Social Security numbers?"" by clicking here.

If you are assigned a number for non-work purposes, you can’t use it to work.

If you use it to work, the Social Security Adminsitration may inform DHS.

If You Need A Number For Tax Purposes

If you need a number for tax purposes, but don’t meet Social Security’s requirements to be assigned a number, you can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

To apply for an ITIN, you need to contact the IRS and ask for Form W-7 (Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number). You can obtain Form W-7 by:

-- Calling the IRS toll-free number, 1-800-829-1040; or
-- Accessing the IRS web site by clicking here; or
-- Calling or visiting any local IRS office; or
-- Writing them at the following address:

P.O. Box 447
Bensalem, PA 19020