Why is a Social Security number needed?
Social Security numbers are generally assigned to people who are authorized to work in the United States. They are used to report your wages to the government and when filing your tax return. Also, when opening up a new bank account, banks require either a Social Security number or proof of application for a Social Security number.
What is the application process?
Upon arriving in the United States, all participants must register their housing address in SEVIS (within 10 days of arrival). After SEVIS registration is complete, participants should wait 3-4 business days before applying for a Social Security number at their local Social Security office. The Social Security Administration recommends waiting at least 10 days after arriving in the United States before applying. If you do not register in SEVIS, you will not receive a Social Security number. Your local Social Security office can be found by visiting: www.ssa.gov/locator
Bring the originals and two (2) copies of the following documents to your local Social Security office:
- Photo page of passport
- Visa page of passport with admission stamp
- DS-2019 Form (make a photocopy of both front and back)
- Form SS-5 (application form)
- Dear Social Security Officer Letter (provided by InterExchange)
After submitting your Social Security application, you will need to present proof of application to your employer. Proof of application can include either a copy of the application Form SS-5, or a copy of the application receipt (sometimes mailed after applying). The application receipt can also be used as proof of application when opening a bank account.
Check on application status
After you apply for your Social Security number, we recommend checking on your application status seven to ten days later. If you return to the office at which you applied, it is recommended that you bring all of your original documents as well as the receipt of application. Checking on your application status will minimize any delays or problems with your application. Your Social Security number may even be available to you prior to your card being mailed out.
How long will it take to receive my card?
Your card should arrive in the mail within four to six weeks of your application date. It is important that your mailing address on Form SS-5 is accurate to ensure that your card gets delivered to you. If you change your mailing address after you submit your application to the Social Security office, it is your responsibility to inform the Social Security Administration of this change by calling or visiting any Social Security office. If you do not currently have a valid mailing address, you may have the card sent to InterExchange Work & Travel USA at: 100 Wall Street, Suite 301, New York, NY 10005, and we will forward it to you at a later point in time.
After you receive your Social Security number
It is your responsibility to notify your employer as soon as you receive your Social Security number. Your employer may ask to make a copy of your Social Security card (they will need the number for tax purposes), but you should retain the original card and keep it in a safe place.
Is it legal for J-1 students to start working prior to receiving their Social Security number?
Yes. Students may start working and can be paid prior to receiving their Social Security number. We encourage all participants to apply for their Social Security number as soon as possible, but wait at least 10 days after arriving in the United States. They should provide proof of application (a copy of the application receipt and/or a copy of application for SS-5) to their employer.
What if my J-1 employee doesn't have a Social Security number when wage reports (Forms W-2) are due? (See SSA website)
Paper Filers: If the worker applied for a card but didn't receive the number in time for filing, enter "Applied For" in Box A. Electronic Filers: If the worker applied for a card but didn't receive the number in time for filing, enter all zeros in the field for the SSN. Remember to ask your employees for the number and the exact name printed on their Social Security card when he or she receives it.
What if I receive the J-1 student’s Social Security number after I have filed my wage report? (See SSA website)
If you receive their Social Security number after you file your wage report, file Form W-2C (Corrected Wage and Tax Statement).
What if my student worker returns home without receiving their Social Security number? Is there a penalty for not reporting a worker’s Social Security number?
Yes, there is a penalty for not reporting a worker’s Social Security number, but this fine is usually waved if the employer can prove reasonable cause for not reporting the Social Security number. Employers will receive Notice 972CG — or a notice of proposed penalty — and will have 45 days to respond. The employer must prove that they acted in a responsible manner and that the failure to submit a Social Security number was not due to willful neglect.
To help prove reasonable cause:
- Collect employees’ proof of application, which can include a copy of their application Form SS-5, a copy of the application receipt (sometimes mailed after they have applied) or a signed statement from student stating that they have applied.
- Document the student’s gender, address, date of birth, father’s full name, mother’s maiden name, employee’s full name and the date of application.
- Make at least one solicitation for the correct Social Security number either by mail, telephone, electronically, or in person and document this solicitation and the results. Retaining a copy of Form W-4 can also be considered a solicitation for the correct Social Security number, but additional solicitations may be required.
Publication 1586 details the requirements of proving reasonable cause as well as answering additional questions regarding missing Social Security numbers. Section (m) in regulation 301.6724-1 details the procedure for seeking a waiver of the penalty.
What if my employee’s Social Security card arrives at my business after they have left?
If you have a forwarding address for the student, please forward the card to them. If you do not have an address for the student, please mail the card to: InterExchange Work & Travel USA, Attn: Social Security Information, 100 Wall Street, Suite 301, New York, NY 10005. We will forward it to the student.
If I am a returning J-1 and have already been issued a Social Security number, do I need to reapply?
No, you do not need to apply for a new number. If you do not remember your number or have lost your card, you will need to apply for a replacement by visiting your local Social Security office, which can be found by visiting: www.ssa.gov/locator
What if the Social Security Administration won’t accept my documents?
The Social Security Administration will not accept a student’s application and documents if you have not yet registered your housing address in SEVIS. We recommend going to the Social Security office at least three to four business days after initially registering your housing address in SEVIS. The Social Security Administration recommends waiting at least 10 days after arriving in the United States before applying. If they do not accept your application, take detailed notes of what the Social Security officer says and report this information to InterExchange by calling 1.800.621.1202.
What if my Social Security card never arrives?
If you put your employer’s address on the Social Security application Form SS-5, check with them to ensure that they have not received your card. The Social Security Administration can be contacted at: 1.800.772.1213. An update on the application status will usually be given over the phone. In the event that there is an issue with the application, take detailed notes and call InterExchange to help resolve the issue. You can also reapply in person at your local Social Security office, which can be found at: www.ssa.gov/locator
Social Security Contact