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How can a non-citizen obtain a Social Security number?


The state of New Jersey is home to immigrants from all over the world who make a living while residing in the United States. Many of these people may require financial support in the form of Social Security Retirement income, Social Security Disability income or Supplemental Security Income (SSI). An earlier blog post talked about SSI for non-citizens. However, before obtaining benefits a non-citizen, one must first obtain a Social Security number.

According to the rules set by the United States Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Social Security Administration (SSA), a non-citizen can obtain a Social Security number in one of two ways. The first method requires the non-citizen to apply for a Social Security number before entering the U.S. This application needs to be filed at the time of applying for an immigration visa with the U.S. Department of State. If a non-citizen uses this method, that person does not need to visit a Social Security office.

The other option is to visit the Social Security office in person. In this case, an applicant must produce all documents relevant to his or her immigration that are issued by the DHS. Ideally, this application should be made within 10 days after arriving in the U.S. so that the SSA is able to verify the information about the applicant's immigration online. Additionally, the SSA requires a proof of identity, a copy of the work-authorized immigration status papers, and a proof of age.

Once a non-citizen has completed either of these two steps and the SSA ensures that everything is in order, they will mail the Social Security card to the immigrant. Obtaining a Social Security number is a fairly simple process, but there may be difficulties associated with the benefits. Since SSD benefits can often be complicated to obtain, it may be a wise decision for non-citizens residing in New Jersey to hire an attorney experienced in handling a variety of matters related to SSD, SSI and other such programs.

Source: SSA.gov, "Social Security Numbers for Noncitizens," accessed on Feb. 22, 2015

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