You may be wondering whether or not you can get a job without a social security number; one of the requirements for working in the United States. Perhaps the most valuable number for any U.S. resident, these nine digits dictate whether or not you may legally work in this country.
What should you do if you don’t have a social security number? Citizens born in the U.S. who did not get a social security number at birth can apply for one at a social security office. Non-U.S. citizens can apply for a card prior to or upon admission to the United States.
The Social Security Act
The social security number (SSN) was created following the passage of the Social Security Act of 1935 to solely track the earnings histories of U.S. workers. The intention was to use the number to determine social security benefit entitlements and compute benefit levels. In order to track benefits, every employee is required to have a social security number.
Why Do I Need a Social Security Number?
You need a social security number to get hired, collect social security benefits, and to obtain some other government services. The United States grants legal workers benefits—including retirement, survivor, and disability benefits—that are financed by the Social Security Administration. Wage earners in the U.S. fund these benefits by paying income taxes, and they receive benefits when they retire.
Social security numbers allow for proper income tracking, taxation, benefits, and census data collection.
Can I Work in the U.S. Without a Social Security Number?
Employees must present an original document or documents that show their identity and employment authorization within three days of starting employment, and you employer must attest to receipt of the authorization.
However, you can provide receipts showing that you have applied for documentation. Your social security number and other documentation must be provided to the employer within 90 days. You have options to secure employment while you wait to receive a social security number. So, it’s important to apply for a social security number as soon as possible.
It's not possible to legally work indefinitely within the U.S. without a social security number.
If you are an immigrant seeking employment in the U.S. or have already been granted a nonimmigrant work visa, you must take steps to obtain a social security number.
How Long Do I Have to Obtain a Social Security Number?
You have 90 days after being hired to provide your social security number to your employer. However, you will need to submit a receipt for your social security application for a replacement card when you complete Form I-9 verifying your ability to work in the United States.
Be sure to inform your potential employer of your situation before they hire you. For their legal protection, the company will require that you verify your social security number within the 90-day deadline, or re-verification will be necessary.
When and How Do I Obtain a Social Security Number?
For U.S. Citizens:
U.S.-born persons over the age of 12 must apply for an original social security card in person at a social security office with documents verifying their identity. Examples of acceptable documents include a birth certificate, U.S. passport, or U.S. driver’s license. The documents you submit must be original or certified copies.
You will also need to provide evidence that you do not already have a social security number. If you are 12 years of age or older, you will be interviewed as well, even if a parent or guardian signs the application on your behalf.
For Immigrants and Non-U.S. Citizens:
To apply for your social security number, you may either visit your local social security office or submit an application when you apply for your U.S. visa. You will fill out the electronic Form DS 260.
If you apply at your local social security office, you will need to provide your passport with your Machine-Readable Immigrant Visa (MRIV) or Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551), as well as your birth certificate.
If you're a refugee, you cannot apply for a social security number in your country of origin. A social security number will be issued as part of the asylum process.
How Long It Takes
Whether you are a U.S.-born citizen or an immigrant, it will take about two weeks to receive your social security number and card after you have applied. The same wait period applies to replacement cards. If you have lost your social security card, you can apply for a replacement card in-person or online.
Types of Jobs You Can Get Without a Social Security Number
Some independent contractor jobs may not require a social security number when you’re hired. But if the contracting business is compliant with government regulations, it must ask for a completed W-9 Form from independent contractors before the end of the year, for tax purposes.
Some manual-labor employers will hire illegal workers and don’t require their employees to show proof of their social security number. However, businesses that violate the law risk federal intervention, which may include loss of business licenses and/or the deportation of illegal workers.
Employers Are Required to Verify Eligibility for Employment
Employers in the U.S. must verify that employees have submitted accurate information during the hiring process and confirm their eligibility to work in the U.S. New employees will complete an I-9 Form and may be subject to a private background check or a check via the federal government’s E-Verify system.
How Your Employer Can Help
If you have an employer who finds you vital to their business and is willing to help you, they may be able to assist you in securing a work visa and social security number.
Can I Report Earnings Without a Social Security Number?
Until you have a social security number, you cannot pay taxes and are not eligible to receive social security benefits. However, once you have a social security number, how you report your earnings depends on whether you are a payroll employee or an independent contractor.
If you are a payroll employee, your wages and contributions to social security will be reported by your employer. If you are self-employed, your contributions will be paid as a self-employment tax.
The information contained in this article is not legal advice and is not a substitute for such advice. State and federal laws change frequently, and the information in this article may not reflect your own state’s laws or the most recent changes to the law.