Applying to USCIS for an EAD Work Permit? You Can Get Social Security Number at Same Time

If you plan to apply for a work permit or EAD from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and you do not have a Social Security Number (SSN), now you can apply for both in one step.

By , Attorney · Temple University Beasley School of Law

If you are applying for work authorization (an EAD) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) along with a green card application, for example after applying for asylum or for any other reason, and you do not have a Social Security Number (SSN), you will have to get one in order to report your income to the U.S. government.

The good news is that USCIS and the Social Security Administration (SSA) have joined forces to eliminate some bureaucracy. (In the past, you could only apply for an SSN in person at your local SSA office after you received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD) (or work permit) from USCIS.)

If you currently reside in the U.S. you can request an SSN at the same time you submit your work permit application. Here's how to do it.

Why Do I Need a Social Security Card?

A Social Security Card is a paper card with your name and SSN on it. If you are not a U.S. citizen or legal permanent resident and you receive temporary permission to work in the U.S. the card will also note that it is valid for work only with authorization from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), the government agency that oversees USCIS.

Having an SSN is important because it allows you to pay taxes to the federal government (as is legally required). Many U.S. employers will require you to fill out Form W-4 with your SSN and proof of employment authorization so that they can properly withhold taxes from your paycheck.

Additionally, a SSN makes it easier to open a bank account or credit card, apply for a loan, establish a business, and integrate into life in the United States.

Avoid Long Waits and Delays at the Social Security Administration

Previously, immigrants seeking permission to work in the U.S. needed to fill out Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card, deliver it in person and show proof of employment authorization, and wait approximately two to four weeks to receive a SSN and Social Security Card. Unfortunately, local SSA offices are known for having long wait times, and applicants might wait hours just to to hand in a form.

This additional delay could be frustrating for immigrants. Although applicants were legally permitted to work, many U.S. employers would not hire them until they had a SSN, so that they could fill out required federal tax withholding paperwork.

What's more, in most states you need an SSN in order to get a driver's license.

How to Fill Out Form I-765 to Receive a Social Security Card

When you fill out Form I-765 (available on the USCIS website; these tips refer to the version issued 04/01/2024), Question 13.a. asks "Has the Social Security Administration (SSA) ever officially issued a Social Security Card to you?"

By "officially" it means that you legally received permission to work on another occasion and received a SSN at that time. Some immigrants obtain false Social Security cards in order to work illegally in the United States. If you ever used a fake SSN, or a parent ever used a fake SSN for you, you were not officially issued a Social Security Card and should check "No."

If you received an official Social Security Card in the past but lost it, or if it contains language about being valid only when shown in combination with a DHS work permit, you can check "Yes," provide your SSN, and answer the next questions to get a replacement Social Security Card mailed to you.

In order to receive a Social Security Card when your EAD application is approved, check "Yes" on Question 14, which asks "Do you want the SSA to issue you a Social Security Card?" and also check "Yes" on Question 15, which will allow USCIS to share the information on Form I-765 with the SSA.

Questions 16 and 17 ask for your parents' full names. This is to avoid the issuance of duplicate SSNs to persons with common names. Make sure you spell your parents' names correctly. If you do not have a living mother or a father, leave that question blank or write "None."

You Should Receive Your Social Security Card Around the Same Time as Your Work Permit

SSA will verify your identity and issue you the SSN and Social Security Card after USCIS approves your work authorization application. You should receive this in a separate mailing, to the address indicated on your Form I-765.

If you do not receive your Social Security card within seven to ten business days after receiving your EAD, contact your local SSA office. Information about SSA offices can be found on the SSA website or you can call 1-800-772-1213.

Getting Legal Help

Talk to an experienced attorney if you have any questions about your EAD or SSN eligibility or need assistance with the application process.

Talk to an Immigration attorney.
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