Social Security Cards and Immigrants

Social Security numbers are used for a variety of purposes such as for the individual’s taxpayer i.d. number, for bank and other financial accounts, and as Social Security and Medicare account numbers.

Anyone in the U.S. can get a Social Security card. There are basically three kinds of cards.

1. A person authorized to live in the U.S. permanently or indefinitely, such as a U.S. citizen or permanent resident can receive an unrestricted Social Security card.

2. A person authorized to work for a temporary period of time, either for a specific employer or for any employer, can receive a restricted Social Security card.

3. A person not eligible to work can apply for a non-working Social Security card, to open bank and other financial accounts, and to have a taxpayer i.d. number.

The big difference between the unrestricted and restricted cards is that a person with a restricted card must show an employer a document that authorizes employment when applying for a job in the U.S. unless the employer has already been notified it can hire the worker by I-129 petition. Before you can be employed in the U.S., you must prove to an employer that you can legally work here. In general, visitors and other nonimmigrants cannot work in the U.S. There are only two exceptions. Certain nonimmigrant categories exist to let a company bring a worker to the U.S. In those situations the company has already received permission to employ the worker in a certain capacity by proving that the employment and worker meet certain requirements. We do not issue any kind of employment authorization document to these workers because they are only authorized to work for the employer that sponsored them. These workers can apply to Social Security with their passport, visa and I-94  arrival-departure document for a restricted Social Security card. The restriction alerts other employers that the worker is not authorized to work in the general labor market. The second exception is that there are a few nonimmigrant categories that, in certain situations, permit the person apply for and receive employment authorization from us. An example is a college student who we may authorize in some situations to get practical training after completing a program of studies. They can then apply to Social Security for a restricted Social Security card. A person who is not eligible to work can apply for a special non-working Social Security card to open bank and other financial accounts.



Disclaimer: The information herein is not intended as legal advice and is provided for general information only.Questions involving interpretation of specific U.S. laws should be addressed to an attorney and/or government officials.

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