In this post I thought I would talk about my experience of getting a social security card as a US immigrant and non US citizen, once I had arrived in the USA on my K1 Fiance Visa. After all my troubles with trying to open a non US citizen bank account, I will not pretend that I was not a little nervous about trying to jump another bureaucratic hurdle. But a US Social Security Card is essential in America for many things: the social security card itself can be used as proof of ID, plus you need the Social Security Number (SSN) that comes with it too.
The closest thing to a US Social Security Number in the UK, where I am from, is the National Insurance number. However, we only generally use that for work, tax, and claiming benefits in Britain. As I mentioned, you need a US Social Security Card and Social Security Number (SSN) for all sorts of things in America. In the UK, you often have to use your passport as I.D. and occasionally your driving license as I.D. In the USA, your Social Security Card and Driving License are requested constantly for I.D. purposes and there is no assumption that you have a passport (many Americans don’t have passports).
How do I get a social security card?
You need to find out where your local social security office is. If you are unsure, look it up on the internet. I went down to my local social security office with my wife shortly after getting married in Florida. There was no appointment system, we were told just to turn up and join the queue. I took along some I.D.: my passport with the I-94 in it and my marriage license. I also took along a social security form applying for a US social security card and SSN that I had filled out in advance. The Social Security Office had a lot of similarities with its British equivalent - if you have ever had to make a claim for unemployment or another welfare benefit, you probably won’t be phased by the experience, a waiting room full of bored and demoralized people kept waiting for a long period of time. The only major difference from Britain was that we were checked over for guns by the security guard on the way in.
Eventually we were seen by one of the ladies at a hatch. She dealt with my case efficiently and I was told that I would receive my card in about 2 weeks, which turned out to be an accurate. My social security card was a standard one, apart from it stating on the front that it was "Valid for Work with DHS Authorization Only". This was because I didn’t have a US green card or EAD. Once you get your work authorization documents, you can go back to the social security office and they will swap your social security card for one without the legend on it (you need a US green card or EAD). The SSN stays the same. Unlike most of the K1 Fiance visa stuff, the social security process was completely free at every stage.