Social Security and entering the United States of America

Whether you are a student or a teacher, a farm worker or a businessperson, a refugee or a temporary resident, if you are an immigrant and you need to do business with Social Security, you have come to the right place.

If English is not easy for you

We can help you in two ways:

  • You can find out about the Social Security program by reading information in one of the 15 languages offered on our Multilanguage Gateway; and
  • We can provide an interpreter for you when you call or visit Social Security. Read If You Need An Interpreter to find out how we can help you when you contact us.

Getting a Social Security card

To work in the United States, you will need a Social Security card that has your Social Security number. You can find general information about Social Security cards by reading our online publication, Social Security Numbers For Non-Citizens.

There are two ways to get a Social Security card:

  • The easiest way is to apply for a card as part of the immigration process in your home country before you come to the United States. You can do this when filing an application for an immigrant visa with the U.S. Department of State. For information on how to use this process, read Social Security Numbers And Immigrant Visas.
  • If you did not get a Social Security card as part of the immigration process, read New Or Replacement Social Security Number Card to find out how to get one in the United States.

Social Security information for special groups

Please read additional information for the groups mentioned below.

Workers

It's important to make sure your earnings have been reported correctly. Unless your earnings are correctly reported under your name and Social Security number, you won't get credit for them.

Students

  • International Students And Social Security Numbers
  • Wages earned by foreign students
  • If a student has an F-1, J-1, or M-1 Visa and is working on campus or by special arrangement with the school, his/her earnings are generally not covered or taxable for Social Security purposes. Other work generally is covered and taxable. You may want to access the Internal Revenue Services' (IRS) publications 515 and 519 for details about employment taxes payable on the earnings of aliens. These publications are available on the Internet at: http://www.irs.gov/formspubs/ IRS is the authority on all tax matters including the collection and refund of Social Security taxes. You can direct your questions to the IRS by:

    • Calling their toll-free telephone number, 1-800-829-1040; or
    • Calling or visiting any local IRS office; or
    • Writing to the national address of the IRS which is: Internal Revenue Service 1111 Constitution Avenue, NW Washington, D.C. 20024; or
    • Accessing their website at: http://www.irs.gov.

Refugees & Asylees

Who is an asylee?

An alien in the United States or at a port of entry who is found to be unable or unwilling to return to his or her country of nationality, or to seek the protection of that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution. Persecution or the fear thereof must be based on the alien's race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. For persons with no nationality, the country of nationality is considered to be the country in which the alien last habitually resided. Asylees are eligible to adjust to lawful permanent resident status after one year of continuous presence in the United States.

Who is a refugee?

Any person who is outside his or her country of nationality who is unable or unwilling to return to that country because of persecution or a well-founded fear of persecution. Persecution or the fear thereof must be based on the alien's race, religion, nationality, membership in a particular social group, or political opinion. People with no nationality must generally be outside their country of last habitual residence to qualify as a refugee. Refugees are subject to ceilings by geographic area set annually by the President in consultation with Congress and are eligible to adjust to lawful permanent resident status after one year of continuous presence in the United States.

Documents you need to work in the United States

Who is authorized to work?

All refugees have employment authorization based on their status as refugees.

All individuals granted asylum are authorized to work based on that status. An asylee does not need to show an employment authorization document as proof of employment authorization when applying for a Social Security number and card. However, some asylees may have those documents and provide them as evidence supporting their application.

The Department of Homeland Security (DHS) now considers aliens granted asylum to have permanent employment authorization and requests that we treat them as permanent resident aliens. This means that when an individual granted asylum submits appropriate documentation with an SS-5, we will issue an unrestricted Social Security card.

Like refugees, asylees are eligible for assistance and services from the Office of Refugee Resettlement for a limited period of time starting with the date asylum is granted. Because asylees need to be enrolled in certain programs within 31 days of the date they are granted asylum, it is important that the Social Security Administration assign them numbers and issue their cards quickly.

The Executive Office for Immigration Review (EOIR), a separate office from DHS, also processes requests for asylum and may grant asylum.

NOTE

This does not apply to an individual who has applied for asylum or who has been recommended for asylum.

What document does an asylee need to show to get a Social Security number and card?

When an asylee applies for an original or replacement Social Security card, Social Security will accept as proof of alien status any of the following:

  • An I-94 with a stamp showing the individual is granted asylum under section 208 of the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA). NOTE: Some I-94s issued to asylees are stamped or annotated "EMPLOYMENT AUTHORIZED," and some are not. An individual who has been granted asylum does not need an annotation on the I-94 or an employment authorization document to be issued an Social Security number and card for work purposes.
  • An employment authorization document (either Form I-688B showing "274A.12(a)(5)" on the face of the card under Provision of Law or Form I-766 showing "A5" on the face of the card under Category); or
  • An order of an Immigration Judge granting asylum under the INA. The document must be the original decision (not a copy) printed on paper stock bearing the letterhead "United States Department of Justice, Executive Office for Immigration Review, Immigration Court" and show the city where the immigration court is located.

NOTE

If you're a noncitizen, we must verify your documents with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before we issue a Social Security number or replacement card. Most of the time, we can quickly verify your documents online with DHS. If DHS can't verify your documents online, it may take several weeks or months to respond to Social Security's request.

Is your case pending? Check your status

How do I get information using the Executive Office for Immigration Review Case Status Line?

Dial 1-800-898-7180.

Press 1 for English or 2 for Spanish.

Enter your 8-digit A number.

The case status system will read back the number you entered. Press 1 if correct. Press 2 to reenter your A number.

When there is information for you, the case status system will spell your name. Press 1 if the name is correct. Press 2 if you need to reenter your A number.

You will hear a list of several choices. Press 3 to get the asylum decision information.

The case status system will provide a message giving information about your case. If the message is "The Immigration Judge granted relief on your case at (address of immigration court) on (date of order)," an Immigration Judge granted you asylum under section 208 of the INA.

Press 4 for information about any appeal pending on your case.