Social Security Card Basics

Did you know that anyone in the United States can obtain a Social Security card? There are three types of social security cards, and each has a distinct function. Today we will discuss each one so you can see how they relate to immigration and resident status.

1. Unrestricted Social Security Card: These cards are for anyone authorized to live permanently or indefinitely in America (citizen or permanent resident status). This is the most desirable card as it provides the easiest access to jobs and social services.

2. Restricted Social Security Card: These are issued to a person that is authorized to work in America for a limited period of time.

3. Non-working Social Security Card: These cannot be used to apply for work but can be used to open accounts at financial institutions and for tax identification purposes.

If applying for a restricted social security card, know that you must prove (via the appropriate documentation) that you are authorized to work in the US, unless your employer has already been approved for I-129 petition documentation on your behalf. Do not expect to be approved for a restricted social security card and obtain work if you are a visitor to America, or have non-immigrant (foreign national) status.

That being said, there are two instances when non-immigrants can legally work in the U.S.: the sponsor company has received special permission to employ the employee for a specific job and has proved that the worker and the job fall under specialized requirements; or, there are extenuating circumstances such as a post-secondary student residing in America completing practical training to support their career.

When immigrating, visiting for an extended period of time, or sponsoring an immigrant, you must know the restrictions on the various types of social security cards available. Visit www.ssa.gov and www.ssa.gov/people/immigrants to learn more.

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