8 Quick Ways You Can Help Participants Get Their Social Security Number

By Joy Lo

All J-1 exchange participants are required to apply for a Social Security number when they arrive in the U.S. This can seem like a daunting task, but with your support, they’ll have it done in no time.

Detailed information on obtaining a Social Security number can be found in both your and your participant's handbooks. In the meantime, here are some quick ways you can keep participants on track when applying for a Social Security number.

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Image courtesy of Sharyn S., Local Coordinator for Au Pair USA

Ask them if they have registered in SEVIS.

Participants must register their information in SEVIS no later than 10 days after arriving in the U.S., and then they can proceed with their Social Security number application.

Make sure they utilize their program handbook.

We’ve provided step by step information to participants on how they apply for a Social Security number in their handbook. Encourage them to familiarize themselves with the process then come to you for extra support.

Print the I-94 Arrival/Departure record.

Applicants must bring a printed copy of their I-94 Arrival/Departure record to the Social Security office. It’s not likely that participants will have easy access to a printer when they first arrive in the U.S. Suggest ways for them to get this printed, whether offering to use an available printer or directing them to local places where they can use a printer.

Remind them to keep their name consistent across all forms.

One of the most common sources of delays when obtaining a Social Security number is mismatched names on various forms, including in SEVIS. Whenever participants are completing a form, be sure to remind them to use their name exactly as its printed in their passport.

Look over their Social Security Application Form SS-5.

If you have an opportunity, take time to review your participant’s Social Security application form. This can help the application process go smoothly by catching mistakes early.

Prep them for the office visit.

Visiting the Social Security office is no walk in the park. Along with ensuring participants have all of their paperwork, make sure they know about the limited hours and long wait times at the office. It’s helpful to foster a relationship with your local Social Security office if you have participants visiting often.

Know the processing times.

Registering in SEVIS, processing the I-94 record, and waiting for the Social Security card in the mail all take time. Familiarize participants with the processing times so that they don’t panic when things don’t move as quickly as they would’ve liked. Here are some estimates you can share:

  • I-94 form: Same day as their arrival in the U.S.
  • SEVIS: Participants must register their information in SEVIS. After doing so, participants wait three to four business days for their registration to be processed.
  • Social Security card: Four to six weeks after applying.

Encourage them to keep their receipts.

Throughout the application process, it’s important that participants keep all of their receipts. The Social Security application receipt is proof that they can work in the U.S. before they receive their Social Security card. Once the Social Security card does arrive in the mail, it’s a good idea for participants to keep the envelope it came in as proof of address.

Joy Lo By

Joy is a huge advocate for cultural exchange. She's lived across the U.S. and various countries around the world including the UK, Australia and Indonesia. She has a unique perspective on working and thriving in other cultures. She's been a contributing author on Au Pair USA program.

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
The International Coalition for Global Education and Exchange
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation