Home > Deliberations, Random Thoughts, Travel > SSN – Your Passport for settling down in the US

SSN – Your Passport for settling down in the US

As written in the last post, I am going to take you through the important and most confusing steps that are needed for settling down in the US. I will try to make things as simple as possible. If you need more details, head out to Google! First in the series is about SSN.

Just like you need your visa and I-94 to enter the country, the SSN is the first piece of official document that you need to get settled. The Social Security Number (SSN) is tied to virtually every piece of “credit” that is extended to you. Let me explain that further. In my home country, credit is when you take a loan from a bank etc., but in US credit can be service credit also. A postpaid cell phone is credit. A postpaid cable service is credit. In short, for almost anything you do, you will be asked for your SS Number.

Where to apply: There are Social Security Offices in every region. Look at this page, to locate the one nearest to you.

What will you need: Fill the SS-5 form and carry a printout with you. Along with the form, you will need your passport and I-94 in original. I was not asked for any other document. Remember to fill out the correct future address i.e. the address where you/someone else who can receive the SSN card on your behalf will be available after 4-40 days.

When to apply: There are mixed responses to this. Technically you can apply for an SSN the day you land in the US but, I have read it somewhere that 2 weeks is the optimum time after which you should apply. Why wait for 2 weeks? SSN gets processed after your documents are received from the port of entry. If you apply before the documents are received then you application goes into a different workflow. If you apply when the documents are already available in the system and the workflow is faster.

Though there is no official confirmation, I personally believe that it is true because of the time taken for SSN processing for my friends. A person I know applied the next day after reaching here and got the SSN after 4 weeks. Another person applied for it after 2 weeks and got the SSN within 4 days. This could have been completely a matter of chance…but I tend to steer away from that thought.

I applied, what next : Wait! That is the only thing that you can do. Presently there is no option to check for the status of the SSN processing other than visiting the SSA office physically.

– Be early to the SSA office. There is a queue system and the earlier you reach, the faster you can leave.
– Don’t dress up. There is no interview/qualification process. You do not need to be in your best form.
– The form, passport and I-94 are the only things you are going to need. Skip the bulky certificates folder that you carry around with you.
– Once you get you SSN card, keep it safe. Memorize the number. You will need it at a lot of places. And, if you do are the kind of person who likes to play safe, then scan and keep a copy of the SSN card on some secure online storage that you have.

Note: My wife is on L2 visa and I tried applying for her SSN too but, I was turned down with the reason that unless she gets an EAD she will not be eligible for SSN. I know there are posts online which speak differently, but this was my experience.

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