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“We become not a melting pot but a beautiful mosaic. Different people, different beliefs, different yearnings, different hopes, different dreams.” – President Jimmy Carter

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“…with liberty and justice for all.”

Do foreign born U.S. residents need to apply for a social security number to work legally in this country? Not necessarily.

In the United States a social security number is one of many forms of identification. It allows individuals to work, receive social security benefits and other social services and financial resources. Non-citizens are not required to obtain a social security number. In fact, foreign-born residents can work legally in this country and access many benefits and resources without one. For instance legal immigrants are able to obtain a drivers license, subsidized housing, private health care and other benefits without applying for a social security card.

There are situations where you may be asked to provide a social security card while living in this country. For example, banks and credit companies typically request this information, but you are not required to provide it if you do not have it.

How to Apply

If you want to obtain a social security card, there are two ways that you can apply. First, you can complete an application in your country of origin before actually coming to work or live in the United States. You can obtain an application for an immigrant visa through the U.S. Department of State.

If you are already a resident living in the U.S., you can simply go to your local social security office to submit an application. You will need DHS documents to show your immigrant status. It’s a good idea to wait at least 10 days after coming to the U.S. to apply. This will insure that enough time has passed to allow your DHS documents to be logged into the computer database.

Proof of Identity and Immigrant Status

When you apply for a social security card, you’ll need to provide documents that verify your identity and immigrant status. You must be able to provide proof of current immigration documents with work authorization.

The following is a list of acceptable documents:

* Form I-551: This document includes a copy of your immigrant visa and current foreign passport .
* Form I-94: A copy of your arrival and departure record.
* Form I-766 or Form I-688B: Various employment authorization documents.

Other Options

If DHS does not authorize you to work in the U.S, you might still be able to get a social security number by providing proof that you need it for reasons other than work. For example, you would need a social security number in order to obtain certain benefits based on federal law. However, if you are trying to obtain a social security number for tax-related reasons, you can go an easier route by simply applying (Form w-7) for an individual taxpayer identification number through the IRS.

All of this information and much more can be found at the Social Security Administration’s website: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10096.html.

Attorney Rizvi is a Houston immigration lawyer. She provides legal assistance in a variety a fields, including immigration & nationality law, wills & estate planning and business transactions. For more information please visit http://zkrlaw.com.