For most people working in the United States, employers must withhold a certain amount of wages for social security purposes and tax obligations. This includes those working on nonimmigrant worker visas. For this reason, it is important that nonimmigrant workers obtain a social security number (SSN) upon arrival to the United States.
How Can a Nonimmigrant Worker Obtain a Social Security Number
To obtain an SSN, the individual must demonstrate a need. Nonimmigrants with work authorization arising from E, F, H, I, J, L, O, P, Q, R, and TN, demonstrate this need. These categories are thought to demonstrate “need” without extra review by USCIS.
In recent years, the Social Security Administration has encouraged nonimmigrant workers to apply for their SSN immediately upon arrival. Nonimmigrant workers can typically apply at their local social security offices (a list can be found here).
What is Needed for a Nonimmigrant Worker’s Social Security Number Application
While the process used to be tedious, the Social Security Administration seemingly simplified the application process. Nonimmigrant workers whose work authorization arises incident to status now must take a Passport and I-94 Departure Record.
The Social Security Administration typically issues an SSN within two to four weeks.
Why a Nonimmigrant Worker Should Apply for a Social Security Number ASAP
Many payroll systems require an SSN to properly withhold taxes and send them to various government agencies. A SSN easily ties a worker and his/her wages to withheld taxes. For that reason, an SSN does not only make payment more efficient and painless for the employer, but can benefit nonimmigrant workers when it is time to file for a tax return.
While nonimmigrant workers can begin work without an SSN, it benefits everyone if workers obtain an SSN as soon as possible. An SSN helps employers and workers comply with visa programs and state and federal tax laws.