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Social Security for new arrivals in 2023

Social Security is a slightly unfamiliar part of setting up your life in the US and is in essence just a piece of thin card but it opens the door to many institutions and facilities in the country. It's not an option if you are living in the U.S. because you won't be able to work or open a bank account without one.

What is it exactly? It's basically the old-age benefits program (pension) but here's a great video introducing it:

You want to get your hands on one of these as a priority after moving with a Visa as it is attached to your credit score and everything else you might want to do.

How to get a Social Security Number

  1. Go to the Social Security website to see what documents you require
  2. Download, print, and fill-in the application form
  3. You will need to print your I-94 (Arrival Departure record) from the I94 website
    1. Fill in your details and then print out the “I-94 Admission Record”
    2. Continue to “Get this Traveler's Travel History”
    3. Print this as well for good measure
  4. Prepare a letter from your employer that:
    1. Includes your start date for work and your hours (or “Full-time”);
    2. Your gross income per year;
    3. Shows what your job is (matching Visa where appropriate);
    4. Details your Supervisor's (or manager's) name and contact details;
    5. Is on proper letterhead;
    6. Is signed and recently dated;
  5. Prepare documentation of your address in the US (e.g. Formal lease or sub-lease agreement that includes landlord's name and phone number and your address); – Please note, according to the official site, there is no requirement for an address. When I went, it made life a little easier, though.
  6. Find your nearest office by going to this website;
  7. Take the above documents and your Passport that contains your visa (and Passport that has entry stamps if separate) to the above office;
  8. Be kind, provide everything they require;
  9. Be sent your Social Security “card” in the mail a few days later.
    1. In some rare cases I've heard of people asking for their number straight away (or going back the next day and asking for a temporary confirmation of their number). This is possible in some cases, but comes down to who you speak to. Many organizations looking for your number will also not accept it without the physical card.
    2. For your employment, you should be able to (in most cases) be paid while you wait for the card to arrive if you explain that you have been approved and are just waiting. Employers can go back over this detail at a later date.
  10. Take extra good care of this card as getting a replacement is a pain.

Who should I give my social security number to?

You’ll find that almost everyone wants to get their hands on these digits now that you've got them, and with breaches like the Equifax breach (where they lost lots of peoples numbers), you’ll know that they’re incredibly important. But who exactly should you be telling?

This is a question I get asked all the time, and I've therefore written a whole article about who you should and should not give your social security number to.