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How Do I Get a Social Security Card?

Citizenship, immigration and employment status matter

Q. I don't have a Social Security number but I need to get one for my job. How do I apply?

A. You'll need to fill out an application and provide documents showing proof of age, identity, U.S. citizenship or legal immigration status. You can mail in the documents and application, but any applicant older than 12 must go to a Social Security office for an interview. You can find more information, office locations and application forms on the Social Security website.

There are three types of Social Security cards, depending on citizenship and immigration status.

1. The first type shows only name and Social Security number. This is the type of card that is issued to U.S. citizens. Possession of it proves that the holder can work in the United States without restriction. It is also issued to noncitizens whom the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has admitted to the United States for permanent residence.

2. The second type of card has name and Social Security number and a notice: "not valid for employment." Social Security says: "We issue this card to lawful noncitizens who do not have DHS permission to work, but are required by law to provide a Social Security number to get general assistance benefits that they already have qualified for."

3. The third type of card has name and number and a different notice: "valid for work only with DHS authorization." This card is issued to noncitizens who have DHS permission to work temporarily in the United States.

Stan Hinden is a longtime financial writer and author of How to Retire Happy: The 12 Most Important Decisions You Must Make Before You Retire.

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