What is Social Security Number (SSN)?

In the United States, a Social Security number (SSN) is a nine-digit number issued to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and temporary (working) residents.

The number is issued to an individual by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Its primary purpose is to track individuals for Social Security purposes.

Then came the IRS, Banks and others who began using SSN for identification purpose.

My Experience – How I applied for SSN?

The SSN is generally required by financial institutions to set up bank accounts, credit cards, loans, partially because it is assumed that no one except the person to whom it was issued will know it.

SSN Format

SSN Card

The nine-digit SSN is composed of three parts:

  • The first set of three digits is called the Area Number
  • The second set of two digits is called the Group Number
  • The final set of four digits is the Serial Number

SSN Types

  • The first type of card shows your name and Social Security number and lets you work without restriction. We issue it to:
  • U.S. citizens; and
  • People lawfully admitted to the United States on a permanent basis.
  • The second type of card shows your name and number and notes, “VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION.” We issue this type of card to people lawfully admitted to the United States on a temporary basis who have DHS authorization to work.
  • The third type of card shows your name and number and notes, “NOT VALID FOR EMPLOYMENT.” We issue it to people from other countries:
    • Who are lawfully admitted to the United States without work authorization from DHS, but with a valid nonwork reason for needing a Social Security number; or
    • Who need a number because of a federal law requiring a Social Security number to get a benefit or service.

    How to Get SSN

    To apply for a Social Security number and card:

    • U.S. citizenship or immigration status [including Department of Homeland Security (DHS) permission to work in the United States];
    • Age; and
    • Identity.

    Then, take or mail your completed application and documents to your local Social Security office.

    Citizenship or immigration status: We can accept only certain documents as proof of U.S. citizenship. These include a U.S. birth certificate, a U.S. passport, Certificate of Naturalization or Certificate of Citizenship. If you are not a U.S. citizen, Social Security will ask to see your current U.S. immigration documents. Acceptable documents include your:

    • Form I-551 (includes machine- readable immigrant visa with your unexpired foreign passport);
    • I-94 with your unexpired foreign passport; or
    • Work permit from DHS (I-766).

    International students must present further documentation.

    Age: You must present your birth certificate.

    Identity: We can accept only certain documents as proof of identity. An acceptable document must be current (not expired) and show your name, identifying information and preferably a recent photograph. Social Security will ask to see a U.S. driver’s license, state-issued nondriver identification card or U.S. passport as proof of identity. If you do not have the specific documents we ask for, we will ask to see other documents including:

    • Employee ID card;
    • School ID card;
    • Health insurance card (not a Medicare card);
    • U.S. military ID card;
    • Adoption decree;
    • Life insurance policy; or
    • Marriage document (only in name change situations).

    All documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. We cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents.We may use one document for two purposes. For example, we may use your U.S. passport as proof of both citizenship and identity. Or, we may use your U.S. birth certificate as proof of age and citizenship. However, you must provide at least two separate documents.

    We will mail your number and card as soon as we have all of your information and have verified your documents with the issuing offices.

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    1. What does meant by group?. Can explain little more what are the dependencies when create group 2 digits of SSN?

    2. It’s going to be a month since I have applied for SSN. Still haven’t got ! On calling the SSN office a lady told “You should have got it in 7to 10 days. Please come to the SSN office.” So let me go and see whats wrong :/

      1. George,

        Could you kindly elaborate on your experience ? I know its almost half an year since your post, but I believe I’m in a similar state of events (the SSA lady said mine’ll take a while :O )

        Hope your’s went well ! Do complete your experience.

        Vishnu N S

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