What should I know about having an American Social Security Number/Card?
Having a Social Security number can be a great benefit for you. It is a unique number that is used by the government to allow them to track your earnings as well as configure benefits owed to you. There are other circumstances where you may need a Social Security number. A Social Security number can make life in the U.S. a bit easier. As a permanent resident, it is recommended that you apply. However, you do not need to apply a second time if you requested a Social Security number when you originally applied for an immigrant visa and the date that you applied was October 2002 or later and, at the time of application, you were 18 years or older.
The benefit of having a Social Security number can allow you an easier transition to apply for: a bank account, renting or owning an apartment or house, utilities, and credit cards. Your number will also be used to establish credit and you can access credit reporting services to ensure that all information is correct. A good credit standing will give you the opportunity to apply for bank loans. Employers will also request your Social Security number so that all taxes and social security payments you make during your employment are recorded.
Applying for a Social Security number must be done in person, as the government organizations will need to speak with you and you will need to have some specific documentation. You can locate the nearest office at www.socialsecurity.gov or call 1-800-772-1213 from 7 a.m.to 7 p.m.. You can also ask friends if they know of the nearest Social Security office to you. The offices have English and Spanish-speaking services available. Free interpreter services are available as well, but these services must be requested in advance. The Social Security office offers interpreters in 14 different languages. When you have set an appointment to get your Social Security number you must bring the following documents with you:
- A birth certificate or a document showing when and where you were born, such as your passport
- A document that demonstrates your immigration status which should include the permission to work in the United States. This document can be a passport with a visa label or immigration stamp or your Permanent Resident Card.
You will need to have an established permanent residence, as your Social Security card will be mailed to you at that address. You should apply for your Social Security card within three (3) weeks of your arrival in the United States. If you moved from the address supplied to the Social Security office and did not contact them, you will need to call the office to inform them. Early on when you’re settling down to life in the U.S., it is always recommended that you file a ‘forwarding address’ with the U.S. Postal Service. This ensures all important paperwork is forwarded to your new location.
Important To Note: A Social Security number assigned to you should be guarded carefully. You should never share your number with anyone other than an official company or organization that you are applying to. People who get your Social Security number will have access to your personal information and this can lead to ‘identity theft’. Guarding your number will help to protect you. Do not carry your Social Security card with you. It is recommended that you memorize the number and keep your card in a location with other important papers, such as your passport. It is also recommended that you shred any and all non-essential paperwork that may have your Social Security number included. Never place it in the trash can or recycling.
Do not give out your Social Security number to anyone on the phone or internet. Specifically any company, organization or person that you are not familiar with.
In the case of identity theft, the government has a hotline and a website for the Federal Trade Commission: 1-877-438-4338.