If you’ve just moved to the United States there is probably lots of admin and paperwork you need to do. At the top of this list of priorities should be going to get your Social Security Number (SSN).
Introduced in 1936 to track the earnings histories of U.S. workers, the SSN has now become a vital and widely used piece of identifying information. This nine-digit number is essential if you want to get a job, save for retirement and pay your taxes. But if you’re new to the U.S., how do you get one?
Below we’ll highlight a few of the key things you need to think when obtaining your social security number in the US, including:
- When and Why you need a social security number (SSN)
- How to get a Social Security number
- Be careful when using your Social Security number
- Using Small World
When and Why do you need a social security number (SSN)?
So you may have heard people talk about social security numbers and you have been asked for social security numbers before. But why does it matter whether you have your own SSN?
Anytime you are looking for work you will need to have your Social Security number to hand. If you get hired for a job in the United States your employer will ask for your Social Security number.
It is essential that you are able to provide them with it, otherwise you may not get the job. This is because your employer uses your Social Security number to report your income to the Internal Revenue Service. They will also use the number to report your Social Security wages to the Social Security Administration.
Your social security number will be linked to you and the jobs you work throughout your life. As well as reporting to the IRS and the SSA, your employer will need your SSN for state income tax reporting. Most employers participate in E-Verify and they must have your Social Security number before you can start working for them.
So, as you can see, getting a Social Security number as soon as possible is integral to your ability to get a job and start earning.
You will find that you also need your Social Security number in a variety of other situations including:
- When enrolling in Medicare. The Social Security Administration functions alongside the Centers for Medicaid and Medicare services to help people enroll in Medicare. Your SSN will be the key identifying information that allows the SSA and Medicaid office to coordinate and process your enrollment.
- When applying for a passport. If you have been in the United States for a while you may want to apply for a U.S. passport. Federal law requires that you submit your Social Security number when applying for a U.S passport.
- When opening a bank account or other U.S. financial institution account. Banks must obtain your Social Security number or your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) before you can open an account. They will use your SSN to check your credit, report relevant information to the IRS and properly manage your bank account.
- When applying for public assistance. If you need to receive unemployment benefits or Social Security disability income the federal or state government agency will require your Social Security number. They will use your SSN to ensure you are entitled to any benefits you claim.
- When filing your tax return. You will be required to provide your SSN when you are filing your tax return. The IRS needs your number to ensure that the income you’ve reported matches the income your employer has paid you.
- When applying for a federal loan. Your Social Security number will be used to determine your eligibility for a federal loan. For example if you want to have a federal student loan you will have to supply your SSN.
- When applying for a driver’s license. Most states will require you to provide your Social Security number when you apply for a driver’s license. However, if you are not a citizen of the United States you will usually be exempt.
How do you get a social security number?
To get a Social Security number you need to apply for one at your nearest Social Security Office. The process will depend on your circumstances. For example, if you are an immigrant who has obtained a U.S. visa to work in the U.S. you must apply for a Social Security number after you enter the United States. The process cannot be completed from abroad.
You can complete an application for a Social Security Card using the Form SS-5-FS. This form and the attached documents must then be processed by the appropriate Social Security Office. Then, if successful, you can expect to wait approximately 2-4 weeks before you receive your Social Security number and card.
You can also complete the process online by using my Social Security Account. You can apply online if:
- You are a U.S. citizen age 18 or older with a U.S. mailing address (this includes APO, FPO, and DPO addresses)
- Have a driver’s license or state-issued identification card from one of the many participating states or the District of Columbia
- You are not requesting a name change or any other change to your card
Be careful when using your Social Security number
Your Social Security number is an extremely valuable and personal piece of information that you shouldn’t give out unless absolutely necessary. In general, you should only use your Social Security number in the circumstances we’ve listed.
Sometimes your medical providers will ask for your SSN but you can usually choose to not give it without any trouble. However, it is important to remember that while you can refuse to give your SSN, the other party you are dealing with can also refuse to do business with you.
When you get your card it’s not wise to carry it around with you unless you really need it. Losing your Social Security card or having it stolen can be incredibly frustrating and will put you at risk of fraud or identity theft.
Support your loved ones with Small World
Once you’ve settled in the U.S. and you’ve received your social security number you may need to send money home to support your family and friends.
Small World is an international money transfer service that helps millions transfer funds across boards quickly, securely and simply.
To learn more about how Small World can help you click here.