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Can I get a Social Security card if I'm not a U.S. citizen?

Yes, if you're in the country legally. But be aware that the Social Security Administration issues three kinds of Social Security cards.

All include the holder's name and Social Security number, but they differ according to a person's immigration status. And not all of them let you work.

The most common type is the basic Social Security card known to hundreds of millions of people. It is issued to U.S. citizens and to noncitizens that the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has given permission to live and work in the country permanently. These include:

  • Immigrants with a permanent resident card, known as a green card
  • Refugees
  • People granted asylum

The second type of card carries the words “valid for work only with DHS authorization.” It is issued to people who have permission to live and work here temporarily.

The third type is stamped “not valid for employment.” It is issued to noncitizens who don't have permission to work but need a Social Security number for other reasons, such as to apply for government benefits or services.

In most cases, the first step toward getting a card is filling out an SS-5 application form, which you can download from the Social Security website or get from any Social Security office. [Editor’s note: The Social Security Administration temporarily closed local offices to the public on March 17, 2020, in response to the coronavirus threat. Social Security services remain available online and by phone. We will update this article when the field offices reopen.]

For alternative application methods, see “Keep in mind” below.

Noncitizens must provide proof of age, identity and immigration status when they apply, including:

  • Current, DHS-issued immigration documents
  • An unexpired foreign passport
  • A foreign birth certificate, if it's available or the applicant can obtain it within 10 days (if not, Social Security might accept the passport or immigration papers as proof of age)

Obtaining a Social Security card is free.

Keep in mind

  • The documents provided as evidence must be originals, or certified copies from the agencies that issued them. Photocopies or notarized copies are not accepted. Social Security will return your documents.
  • If you are in the United States legally and seeking a work permit, you can apply for a Social Security number and card on the same form you use to apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services for employment authorization, called an I-765.
  • People planning to immigrate can request a Social Security number and card before coming to the United States, as part of their application to the State Deparment for an immigrant visa. Find information on how at the Social Security website.

Updated March 17, 2020

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