• Get a Social Security Number (SSN)

Get a Social Security Number (SSN)

What is a Social Security Number (SSN)?

A social security number is a nine-digit identification number issued by the United States Social Security Administration (SSA) to US Citizens, permanent residents, and non-immigrant working residents.

Only non-citizens authorized to work in the US by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) are eligible for a Social Security Number.

As a postdoc under non-immigrant status (J-1 visa holder) and authorized to work in the United States by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), you can and must get a Social Security Number (SSN).

Why do you need a Social Security Number (SSN)?

The Social Security Number is very important when you live in the United States. This number refers as your identification number for the US administration.

It is required to have a Social Security Number (SSN) in order to:

  • Work in the United States.

SSN is used to report wages to the government. When your employer withholds taxes from your paycheck, taxes are attached to your SSN.

  • Collect Social Security benefits in the United States.

SSN is used to determine your eligibility to Social Security benefits and pensions, or any other government services.

  • Open a bank account, ask for a loan.

SSN is also used by banks and credit issuers for identification, to run a credit check.

  • Apply for a driver’s license.

Many states require having a SSN before to apply for a driver’s license.

How to get a Social Security Number (SSN)?

For non-immigrant status like J-1, you will need to wait at least 10 days after arriving in the United States to visit a local Social Security Administration (SSA) Office in person and apply for a Social Security Number.

Why do you need to wait 10 days?

It is the time required to be sure your immigration status information has been updated in all government systems so that Social Security Administration can find your records in DHS databases.

In addition, you cannot apply before the effective start date of your Form DS-2019.


Apply for a Social Security Number (SSN)

The application for a Social Security number is FREE. You will need to visit a social security office in your area.

Please note that J-2 dependents who are authorized to work in the US may apply in person for a Social Security Number at a local Social Security Administration Office.

Find out where is the closest Social Security Office:

At the Social Security Administration office, you must complete Form SS-5 (Application for a Social Security Card) or download it on the internet, fill it and bring it with you.

So you need to bring Form SS-5 (Application for a Social Security Card) with two original documents proving your identity, immigration status, work eligibility and age.

Here is a list of documents you must bring:

  • Form SS-5 required to apply for a Social Security Number
  • Passport
  • J-1 visa Stamp in your passport
  • Form DS-2019
  • A letter of appointment from your J-1 visa sponsor
  • Form I-94 (optional)

You must have original documents, no photocopies !


Your SSN card will be mailed to you or may be picked up at the Social Security office if requested.

Social Security Card / Social Security Number - Non-Immigrant (J-1 status)

Social Security Card – Non-Immigrant (J-1 status)


Beware of Identity theft!

You don’t need to carry your Social Security card in your wallet all the time. Just keep it in a safe place and remember the number!

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