What is a Social Security Number?

The Social Security System provides social and medical benefits for disabled and retired U.S. citizens. While working, employees and self-employed people pay into the system. Once they retire or become disabled they receive monthly benefits, provided that they fulfill certain requirements.

the card

For foreigners, the most important aspect of the Social Security program is the Social Security Number (SSN). The number is issued by the United States Department of Social Security, Social Security Administration. It is used to track earnings while one is working and to track received social security benefits. In order to get a job everybody needs a SSN to report to the employer. Any financial institution that pays interest to you will ask for your SSN.

The nine-digit Social Security number is divided into three parts. The first three digits of the SSN are the area number. For numbers assigned prior to 1973, it indicates the specific Social Security office from which the card was issued. Since 1973, certain blocks of numbers have been allocated to each State. The area number indicates the State the number holder showed as his/her mailing address on the application for a number. The State is derived from the ZIP code in the mailing address. The middle two digits are the group number and have no geographical significance. They just break the SSN into conveniently sized blocks for use in internal operations and order of issuance. The last four digits are the serial number representing a straight numerical series of numbers from 0001-9999 within each group.

Social Security Number’s are not reassigned when people die. Benefits may be payable to dependents and survivors or the SSN holder long after the SSN holder dies.

Dependent visas and SSN  Social security numbers are not being issued to H4, L2 visa holders. They can’t get SSN just for banking, driving, etc. Some states require that the person must have the social security in order to get the driver’s license. Social Security Administration(SSA) has given a final rule saying that SSN can’t be issued for getting driver’s license. SSN should be used only for tracking person’s earning over life time and driver’s license has nothing to do with SSN. If you are staying such state, you just can’t get driver’s license.Family members ( spouse, children) who hold F-2, H-4 or J-2 visa status are not eligible for a Social Security number.

Very few states like Iowa may still provide social security numbers but you cannot use it for work purposes, kindly check with authorities.

ITIN (Individual Tax Identification Number)

Anyone who is not eligible for a SSN can apply for a taxpayer identification number using the form W-7. This number can be used for tax purposes, if claiming deductions, and at banks to open an account. To apply for an ITIN, you need to contact the IRS and ask for Form W-7 Documents needed are your passport, address proof and marriage certificate/birth certificate etc.