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Social Security Guide
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Social Security Overview for Legal Workers in the US - Citizens, Immigrants, Nonimmigrants, Legal Aliens, Foreign Nationals

Social Security Guide

Social Security Immigrants Nonimmigrants Legal Aliens Foreign Nationals Foreign Workers Foreigners

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  • An overview of the information in this Social Security Guide

Social Security is the broad term for a range of financial benefits from the U.S. Federal Government available to virtually all those who work legally in the United States (including immigrants, nonimmigrants, legal aliens, foreign nationals, foreign workers). Most workers in the U.S. rely upon Social Security benefits at some time in their lives. It may be when they retire and receive retirement benefits; it may be during their working lives if they become disabled and are unable to work; or they may be eligible for survivors benefits upon the death of a worker.

With few exceptions, if you work in the United States, you need to have a Social Security Number (SSN) and pay Social Security taxes. The taxes are withheld by your employer and submitted to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and if you are self-employed, you are responsible for submitting the taxes to the IRS yourself.

If you are a legal alien (immigrant, nonimmigrant, foreign national, foreign worker) with permission to work in the U.S. from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), you need a Social Security Number.

As you work and pay taxes, you earn Social Security credits and become eligible for Social Security benefits, including Survivors Benefits, Disability Benefits, and Retirement Benefits.

Even if you do not work or have permission to work, state and local governments (in conformity with federal law) may require you to have a Social Security Number / SSN to administer laws related to taxes, driver’s licenses, motor vehicle registration, and general public assistance. Businesses, such as banks and doctors, may also rely upon Social Security numbers to identify people in their computer systems.

Providing your Social Security Number / SSN to organizations other than the Social Security Administration does not give them access to your Social Security records. Nevertheless, you should be careful about disclosing your Social Security Number and generally not use it as an identification card because of the dangers of identity theft. For example, stolen Social Security Numbers have been used to run up bills or obtain credit.

If you are eligible, it is possible to apply for Social Security Benefits and Cards overseas. U.S. embassies and consulates have personnel who have been specially trained to provide a full range of Social Security services abroad. If you are a beneficiary planning to leave the U.S. to live abroad, you should report your change of home address before you leave (even if your payments are being sent to a bank).

If you are a worker who has divided your career between the United States and another country, you may be protected from dual taxation, as well as have special benefit protections, based on Social Security treaty agreements.

This page is just a summary of the information in this Social Security Guide. Continue reading the following pages for more details...

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