How to Apply for a US Social Security Number (SSN): Guide for Foreigners, Visa & Green Card Holders

Transitioning to another country for work is difficult. There are just too many variables that we need to consider. Getting an apartment to live in, government-mandated memberships and regulations, plus buying a car, and settling down again. I used to be non-resident alien with an R1 Visa (religious worker). Since 2019, my family and I received our Permanent Residency (Green Card).

When I first started working, I was able to apply for my SSN on my first week of arrival. In this blog post, I will share with you how to apply for your Social Security Number (SSN). I also created a video guide below.

One of the most important documents for any worker in the United States is the Social Security Number (SSN). Without this, you will not be able to work and get paid. Here are the steps that I followed to apply for a SSN. More than just a document for the employer, the SSN is also used most of the time to build one’s credit history in the United States. (I’ll dedicate a separate blog post about that credit history thing.)

Prepare the required documents.

The Social Security Administration of the US government needs to know if your presence in the United States is legitimate and legal. That’s why the following documents are needed:

Valid Passport and a valid US visa. Passport should be valid and would count as a proof of identity. A valid visa is also required to make sure of one’s legal presence in the United States. My visa is a R-1, which is the visa allocated for Religious Workers–pastors, or lay people who will do work for religious purposes. But any work visa or an immigrant visa will suffice.

I-94 Record. Back in the day, the Customs and Border Protection Agency of the United States would staple a piece of paper on the passport of aliens visiting the country. Not anymore. Almost everything is being done electronically now, and if you want your I-94 record, just go online and go to this link; You can print your I-94 record and it will serve as proof that you had been admitted lawfully into the United States.

USCIS Form I-129 Petition Approval Letter. Another important document that could be shown to the SSA is the USCIS petition approval. This document also shows that the USCIS approved your employer’s petition to hire you.

Employment Certificate or Offer Letter. While this may not be entirely needed, it helps to bring it with you so that the SSA could verify that you are indeed working or about to work with the organization that hired you.

Go to the Social Security Administration early.

Most of my colleagues warned me that I will be spending at least an hour at the SSA office. They were wrong. I arrived there by 9:00 am, right when they opened. I just waited for less than 30 minutes, the officer verified the information I gave him, and after a few minutes, he just told me to wait for the SSN within 10 working days.

Wait for your Social Security Number in the mail.

That’s all I did to get a Social Security Number. I waited for about 2 weeks and the SSN arrived in the mail. I wasn’t there to personally receive it, but my boss got it and gave it to me when we met in Africa for one of our events there. But that is another story for another time. If you want to get a SSN, it’s just easy, as long as you have the required documents.

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