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Getting a U.S. Social Security Number - For Canadians - AG Tax LLP

September 20, 2011

In a previous article entitled “Obtaining a United States Social Security Number for an Adult Citizen” we outlined a brief history of the Social Security Administration and detailed the process for applying for a Social Security Number. We covered the process for applying for an original Social Security Card for an adult US citizen born in the United States and an adult naturalized citizen. The process for adult citizens is fairly straightforward. In this article we will explain the procedure that a non-citizen that is legally in the United States must follow in order to obtain a US Social Security Number.

Importance of Social Security Number

The nine-digit Social Security Number is issued to citizens, permanent residents, temporary working residents and foreign citizens in the United States. It is generally needed for employment purposes. If you plan to work, have an assistantship, or get a driver’s license, you must have a Social Security Number. The Internal Revenue Service and the Social Security Administration uses Social Security Numbers to:

  • Track working individuals for taxation purposes & yearly wages.
  • Check eligibility for Social Security benefits.
  • Report wages to the government.
  • Payroll deductions for old age, survivors, and disability insurance
  • For the administration of benefits.

Additionally:

  • All US Armed Forces use Social Security Numbers instead of the previous Service Identification or Serial Numbers.
  • Many educational institutions also use Social Security Numbers as the student ID number.
  • Many banks and financial institutions use Social Security Numbers to trace the credit history of clients.

Applying for a US Social Security Number

The Social Security Administration issues two restricted Social Security Cards to non-citizens that read either “Not Valid for Employment.” or “Valid for Work Only With DHS Authorization.” Applications for a Social Security Card must be made using Form SS-5 (Application for a Social Security Card). It is important to note that all documents submitted must be either original documents or certified by the agency that issued them. The Social Security Administration will not accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. The Social Security Administration may accept the same document for two purposes (for instance a US passport may be accepted as both proof of age and proof of identity) but, in all cases, at least two separate documents must be presented. If an applicant is unable to obtain the necessary documents or obtain replacement documents within 10 days the Social Security Administration may consider other documents. All documents submitted must be current (not expired) and show your name and identifying information such as date of birth, physical identification features, place of birth, parents name, current address etc. as the case may be. Preferred documents include a current photograph.

There is no charge for an application for an original Social Security Card. Any person age 12 and over applying for a Social Security Number must present himself at a Social Security Administration office for an interview before a card will be issued.

The “Not Valid for Employment” Social Security Card

The “not valid for employment card” is issued to foreigners who have been lawfully admitted to the United States without work authorization from the Department of Homeland Security that have a valid non-work reason for needing a Social Security Number. In general, only non-citizens that have permission to work from Department of Homeland Security can apply for a Social Security Number. Lawfully admitted non-citizens can get many benefits and services without a Social Security number. A number is not necessary to conduct business with a bank, register for school, apply for educational tests, obtain private health insurance, apply for school lunch programs or apply for subsidized housing. Foreigners cannot get a Social Security Number for the sole purpose of obtaining a driver’s license. If you do not have permission to work, you may apply for a Social Security number only if:

  • A federal law requires you to provide your Social Security number to get a particular benefit or service; or
  • A state or local law requires you to provide your Social Security number to get general assistance benefits that you already have qualified for.

If you need a number to meet these state or local requirements, you must bring an original letter from the government agency to the local Social Security Administration office. It must be on letterhead stationery (no form letters or photocopies) and:

  • Specifically identify you as the applicant;
  • Cite the law requiring you to have a Social Security number;
  • Indicate that you meet all the agency’s requirements, except having the number; and
  • Contain an agency contact name and telephone number.

If you need a number for tax purposes and you are not authorized to work in the United States, you can obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number from the Internal Revenue Service.

Application for an Original Card for a Non-citizen Adult Without Work Authorization

In addition to the requirements set out above an applicant in the above category must present proof of immigration status, proof of age, and proof of identity. The accepted documents that can be included with a completed Form SS-5 (Application for a Social Security Card) are listed below:

Proof of Immigration Status – You must show current immigration documents:

  • Form I-551 (Lawful Permanent Resident Card, Machine Readable Immigrant Visa).
  • I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record).
  • If you are an F-1 or M-1 student, you also must show your I-20, (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status).
  • If you are a J-1 or J-2 exchange visitor, you must show your DS-2019, (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status).

Proof of Age:

  • Birth certificate.
  • Foreign passport.

Proof of identity:

  • Form I-551 (Lawful Permanent Resident Card, Machine Readable Immigrant Visa).
  • I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record).
  • Foreign passport

The “Valid for Work” Social Security Card

The “valid for work card” is issued to foreign individuals who have been lawfully admitted to the US that have temporary work authorization from the Department of Homeland Security. This card can be used to satisfy the US Citizenship and Immigration Service Form I-9 requirement (used by employers to verify an employee’s identity and to establish that the worker is eligible for employment) if accompanied by a work authorization card issued by the Department of Homeland Security. As a general rule, only a non-citizen that has work authorization from the Department of Homeland Security can apply for a Social Security card despite the provisions outlined above. It is extremely difficult for a non-citizen without work authorization to obtain a Social Security Number.

Application for an Original Card for a Non-citizen Adult With Work Authorization

In addition to the general requirements set out above an applicant applying for an original Social Security Card who is a non-citizen with work authorization from the Department of Homeland Security must present proof of immigration status, proof of work eligibility, proof of age, and proof of identity. The accepted documents that can be included with a completed Form SS-5 (Application for a Social Security Card) are listed below:

Proof of Immigration Status:

You must show current immigration documents:

  • Form I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record).
  • Form I-551 (Lawful Permanent Resident Card, Machine Readable Immigrant Visa).
  • Form I-766 (Department of Homeland Security Work Permit)).
  • If you are an F-1 or M-1 student, you also must show Form I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student). An F-1 student authorized to work in curricular practical training, must provide the Form I-20 with the employment page (page 3) completed and signed by a designated school official. Evidence of the employment, such as a recent pay slip or a letter from your employer will also be necessary. Your supervisor must sign and date the letter and it must describe the following:
      • Your job;
      • Your employment start date;
      • The number of hours you are, or will be, working;
      • Your supervisor’s name and telephone number.

An F-1 or M-1 student authorized to work off campus, must provide the Social Security Administration with the Employment Authorization Document received from Department of Homeland Security.

  • A J-1 student will be required to provide a letter from his/her sponsor. The letter should be on sponsor letterhead with an original signature that authorizes the employment. If you are a J-1 or J-2 exchange visitor, you must show us your Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status.

Proof of Age:

  • You must present your foreign birth certificate if you can get it within 10 days.
  • Foreign passport.
  • A document issued by Department of Homeland Security showing your age.

Proof of identity:

  • Form I-551 (Lawful Permanent Resident Card, Machine Readable Immigrant Visa).
  • I-94 (Arrival/Departure Record).
  • Foreign passport
  • Department of Homeland Security Work Permit Card (I-766 or I-688B)

Once you have collected all the required documents, take your completed application and documents to your nearest local Social Security Administration office. Persons age 12 or older applying for an original Social Security card must appear for an interview at a Social Security Administration office. Remember, all documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. Photocopies or notarized copies of documents are not accepted.

The Social Security Administration needs to verify your documents with the Department of Homeland Security before they can assign your Social Security Number. If your documents cannot be verified online it may take several weeks to approve your application.

The Social Security Administration does not require that you to have a Social Security Number before you start work. However, the Internal Revenue Service requires employers to report wages using a Social Security Number. While you wait for your Social Security Number, your employer can use a letter from the Social Security Administration stating that you have applied for a number. Your employer may use your immigration documents as proof of your authorization to work in the United States.

AG TAX LLP Can Help

If you have any other tax-related queries, and/or need assistance with tax planning/filing please contact AG Tax. Our tax professionals are highly-experienced with U.S. and Canadian tax laws and can provide you the right guidance to handle your tax situation.

Aylett Grant Tax LLP is a full service accounting firm with a dedicated team of experts, who are highly-qualified and experienced in handling situations related to U.S., Canada and other international tax laws.

We can assist with:

  • Canadian Personal and corporate tax returns
  • Cross Border Taxation and Business Planning
  • Personal and Corporate Taxation
  • Disclosure of Foreign Assets and other information filings
  • Retirement planning
  • Estate Planning, Inheritance tax advice

To obtain a quote or to arrange for a consultation to discuss your tax related queries, please contact us at:

  • 416-238-5920 (Greater Toronto Area, ON)
  • 604-538-8735 (Greater Vancouver Area, BC)
  • 780-702-2732 (Greater Edmonton Area, AB)

 

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ABOUTAG Tax LLP
With offices across Canada, we are positioned to manage and process the full scope of your Canadian, US and US Canada cross-border tax filing needs.
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ABOUTAG Tax LLP
With offices across Canada, we are positioned to manage and process the full scope of your Canadian, US and US Canada cross-border tax filing needs.
OFFICEVancouver
12752 28th Ave, Surrey, BC, V4A 2P4
OFFICEEdmonton
104–4220 98 St NW Edmonton AB, T6E 6A1

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