The first thing you will have to do when you move to America is to obtain a social security number. Only with one of these can you apply for a job, receive a salary, get benefits, obtain Medicare or apply for a US driving licence. You may also find it difficult to open a bank account without a social security number. In short, this 9 digit number is your lifeline and without it, your working days in America are numbered.
Applying for an American SSN in the UK
As getting your social security number is so important for you to be able to live and work in the USA it’s vital that you apply for one as soon as possible. In fact you can do this before you even board the plane.
The Social Security Department have teamed up with Immigration Services to develop a new system that allows non-citizens to apply for their US social security number with their visa application. This cuts out the hassle and worry and should your application be successful, your SSN card will be delivered to you within 3 weeks of your arrival in the US.
Applying for a Social Security Card Whilst in the US
If you didn’t apply for a number with your visa then you can still obtain one whilst you are in America. You can visit any local social security office with the following paperwork:
· Your immigration documents from the DHS (US Dept of Homeland Security)
· Your social security card application form
· Two original documents that verify your identity (such as passport and driving licence)
· Birth certificate
The application for a US social security card is also known as Form SS-5 and can be downloaded from the Social Security website. There is also a list of local Social Security offices on the site. If you cannot get to an office in person then you can mail the form and accompany documents but remember to only mail the original documents. If you need these back you can enclose a stamped addressed envelope.
There is no charge for applications so do be wary of any website that offers this service for a fee.
SSN Numbers for Dependants
Children of non-citizens who are lawfully permitted to work and reside in America do not necessarily need a social security number, nor do spouses or partners so long as they have no intention of working however you can apply for SSN cards for the whole family which will come in useful in the future, especially if you plan on living in America permanently. Contact the Social Security office for a SSNapplication for non-working dependents.
Keeping your SSN Safe
Once you receive your card with your 9 digit number you should inform your employer immediately. If you have already started working then your employer can give you an advance until your SSN comes through.
Treat your SSN as you would your credit card and never divulge the number to anyone other than authorities like your boss, bank or government. Identity theft is a major problem in America so don’t become another statistic and keep your details safe.
Need more info on moving to the USA and what to consider? Check out this USA guide.