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How students can apply for a Social Security number

Whether its to send money to their home country or to get a more rich experience about what working life is like in the U.S., immigrants who are temporarily in the country to attend college often like to work while they're going to school. However, in order to do so, immigrants are strongly encouraged to get a Social Security number.

To help immigrants obtain one, the U.S. Social Security Administration offers some advice.

For starters, a Social Security number is a nine-digit figure that every citizen is assigned, indicating they are authorized to work in the U.S. In addition to being used as a primary source of identification, it also determines a person's eligibility to receive benefits in the form of financial assistance when they retire.

Getting one cannot be done simply by enrolling with a college or university. Instead, the SSA advises immigrants to let 10 days go by after arriving in the U.S. to begin classes. At the end of this period, they should apply for a Social Security card by filling out a SS-5 form. Once this is filled out, applicants should take the document to their local Social Security office, along with documents that confirm their immigration status, their age, who they are and their work eligibility. Forms of identification that are best include I-551, I-94 and 1-766 forms. I-94 forms can also be used to corroborate one's immigration status. These are also called Arrival/Departure records.

To establish one's work eligibility, SSA says it needs a letter from an immigrant's potential employer that details what the job title is, when the employment start date will be, the number of hours being worked and the potential supervisor's name and phone number.

While obtaining a Social Security number is a beneficial thing to do for a variety of reasons, the SSA says it does not require immigrants to have a Social Security before starting work. However, because the Internal Revenue requires employers to report wages at tax time using their employees' Social Security number, it's in immigrants best interest to obtain one.

In the meantime, if an immigrant has already been hired and has already gone through the Social Security application process, a letter can be obtained through the SSA that details the immigrant has applied for a Social Security card and number. This serves as proof that an immigrant is authorized to work in the U.S.

Helpful links:

Form SS-5

International students and Social Security numbers

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