We’ve noticed a trend recently that a lot of people are asking about Social Security numbers. Specifically, individuals are asking, “When should I apply for a Social Security number?” and “What if I already have a Social Security number?” and “When can I work? If I have a Social Security number, can I just start working?”
With regards to when you would apply for your Social Security number, if you’re going through an immigration case, you would be applying for your Social Security number as part of your case. During the process of adjustment of status, you’ll be filling out a lot of forms. There are places on those forms where you would ask for your work permit.
You would ask for immigration to share your information with the Social Security office so you can receive a Social Security number. While immigration and the Social Security office are separate departments of the government, they can communicate to be able to take care of not only your immigration case but once you receive your green card, then you would be able to receive your Social Security card.
In general, you would be applying for your Social Security card with your application.
Those who have a fiancé entering the United States on a K1 visa ask, “Do I apply for my Social Security number separately or does it happen with the application?” Again, you’re actually going to have to apply for that Social Security number as part of your green card application when your fiancé arrives.
The other question we’re receiving in the context of Social Security number is, “What if I already have a Social Security number? Do I get a new number? Should I use my current Social Security number on my application?”
Social Security number is something you’ll have for your whole life. It’s the number that you’ll keep forever.
If you’re already living in the United States with authorization and you’ve been issued a Social Security number at any time in the past, then that is your Social Security number for life. You would put that on the forms so that way, you can continue using that number. It’s very important that you do that because that number will stay with you for life.
The last question we receive with regards to Social Security numbers is, “Can I work?” or “I notice on my Social Security card, it says something about work authorization. I don’t understand.”
The Social Security office provides three types of Social Security cards. The first type is a standard Social Security card with the Social Security number and name but it won’t have any type of designation. The second type of card is a card with the number, name and it will say valid for work only with DHS authorization. That basically means you have a Social Security number and the DHS authorization means you need to have something from immigration that shows that you’re authorized to work.
Typically, you will see this designation when you apply for your adjustment of status application and when you apply for your green card, you’ll also be applying for a work permit. You’ll receive that work permit to use while you’re waiting for your interview and your green card. On that Social Security card you will see valid for work only with DHS authorization and you’ll be receiving a work permit. That work permit with that Social Security card with that designation for work only with the DHS authorization. Those two things together give you permission to work.
The third type of Social Security card that the Social Security office issues is a Social Security card for individuals who are here living in the United States or visiting that have authorization to be here but not to work. They happen to be somebody who needs a Social Security number.
This is less common but if you ever were to have a Social Security card that’s not valid for employment, it just means you have a Social Security number but you can’t work with it.
As you go through your immigration journey, you have to update your Social Security records at each step in the case so the Social Security office is aware that your changed status.