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Do I Need a Social Security Number / SSN?

Social Security Guide

Do I Need a Social Security Number Work Without a Social Security Number SSN ITIN

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When Do I Need a Social Security Number / SSN?
If you are a lawfully admitted alien with permission to work in the U.S. from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you need a Social Security Number (SSN).

Even if you do not have permission to work, state and local governments (in conformity with federal law) may require you to have a Social Security Number to administer laws related to:

  • Taxes;
  • General public assistance;
  • Driver licensing; or
  • Motor vehicle registration.

For application procedures, see: How to Apply for a Social Security Number or Card, Get SSN Application


IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

If you need a number for tax purposes, but do not meet Social Security's requirements to be assigned a number, you can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) using Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (pdf). You may also want to review a detailed publication explaining the ITIN, Understanding Your IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (pdf), which also lists telephone numbers overseas where you may call for IRS assistance in preparing your W-7 form.

If you have any questions or need assistance, call the IRS from inside the U.S. toll free at 1-800-829-1040, or from outside the U.S. at +1-215-516-2000 (this is not a free call). If you are outside the U.S., you may also request Form W-7 at the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate.


What Can I Do Without A Social Security Number / SSN?

As a lawfully admitted alien, you can obtain many benefits and services without having a Social Security Number (SSN), even though you are asked to give one. You do not need a Social Security Number to:

  • Report group health insurance coverage. Employers are not required to report Social Security numbers for lawfully admitted alien family members who are covered by group health plans but do not have numbers.

  • Conduct business with a financial institution. For tax purposes, financial institutions will ask you for a taxpayer identification number. If you are not eligible for a Social Security Number, contact IRS (see ITIN above) to determine if you need an ITIN.

  • Register for school or apply for educational tests. Schools are not authorized to use the Social Security Number to administer education programs. A student applying for the SAT, GRE and other educational tests does not need a Social Security Number to take the test.

  • Apply for school lunch programs. The parent applying for free or reduced-price lunch for the child(ren) can use his/her own Social Security Number or should get a letter from Social Security stating no number will be assigned.

  • Apply for HUD housing. Family members age 6 and older must give a Social Security Number or get a letter from the Social Security Administration stating no number can be assigned.

  • Purchase savings bonds. A lawfully admitted alien may be designated a co-owner or beneficiary without a Social Security Number / SSN.
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