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Social Security Numbers For Noncitizens

SSA Publication No. 05-10096, December 2005, (Recycle prior editions) ICN 468630 [View .pdf] Get Accessible Adobe Acrobat Reader (En Español)



How do I apply for a Social Security number and card? Skip content links
Immigration status
Work eligibility
What can I do if I need a number for tax purposes?
Do I need a number for other government services?
Contacting Social Security

How do I apply for a Social Security number and card?

In general, only noncitizens who have permission to work from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can apply for a Social Security number. To apply for a Social Security number:

  • Complete an Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5)Get Accessible Adobe Acrobat Reader; and
  • Show us original documents proving your:
    • Immigration status;
    • Work eligibility;
    • Age; and
    • Identity.
  • Take your completed application and original documents to your local Social Security office.

Immigration status

To prove your U.S. immigration status, you must show us the current U.S. immigration document, I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, issued to you when you arrived in the United States. If you are an F-1 or M-1 student, you also must show us your I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. If you are a J-1 or J-2 exchange visitor, you must show us your DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status.


Work eligibility

For most foreign workers, we only need to see your I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. Some foreign workers also must show their work permits from DHS (I-766 or I-688B). International students must present further documentation. For more information, see International Students And Social Security Numbers (Publication No. 05-10181).



You must present your birth certificate if you have it or can easily obtain it. If not, we can consider other documents, such as your passport or a document issued by DHS, to prove your age.



We can accept only certain documents as proof of identity. An acceptable document must be current (not expired) and show your name, identifying information and preferably a recent photograph. Social Security will ask to see your current U.S. immigration documents. Acceptable immigration documents include your:

  • Form I-551 (includes machine-readable immigrant visa with your unexpired foreign passport);
  • I-94 with your unexpired foreign passport; or
  • Work permit card from DHS (I-766 or I-688B).

All documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. We cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. We also cannot accept a receipt showing you applied for the document. We may use one document for two purposes. For example, we may use your DHS work permit as proof of both work eligibility and identity. However, you must provide at least two separate documents.

We will mail your number and card as soon as we verify your documents with DHS. While you wait for your Social Security number, your employer can use a letter from us stating that you applied for a number. Your employer can use your DHS documents as proof of your authorization to work in the United States. Employers can find more information on the Internet at


What can you do if you need a number for tax purposes?

If you need a number for tax purposes and you are not authorized to work in the U.S., you can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Visit IRS in person or call the IRS toll-free number, 1-800-TAXFORM (1-800-829-3676), and request Form W-7, Application For An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.


Do you need a number for other government services?

Lawfully admitted noncitizens can get many benefits and services without having a Social Security number. You do not need a number to purchase savings bonds, conduct business with a bank, register for school or apply for educational tests, obtain private health insurance, apply for school lunch programs or apply for subsidized housing.



Contacting Social Security

Our website is a valuable resource for information about all of Social Security’s programs. There are a number of things you can do online.

In addition to using our website, you can call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213. We can answer specific questions from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. We can provide information by automated phone service 24 hours a day. (You can use our automated response system to tell us a new address or request a replacement Medicare card.) If you are deaf or hard of hearing, you may call our TTY number, 1-800-325-0778.

We treat all calls confidentially. We also want to make sure you receive accurate and courteous service. That is why we have a second Social Security representative monitor some telephone calls.


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