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Social Security

Eligibility and how to apply for Social Security as a permanent resident in the US

Social Security is a crucial part of the US welfare state and is available to all permanent residents. Found out how to apply.

U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA) speaks in front of United We Dream Action as several immigrant rights groups gather to push for immigration and pathway to citizenship reform in the reconciliation bill.
Leah MillisReuters

Every permanent resident in the US needs a Social Security Number (SSN). Without it, access to some of the must fundamental administrative procedures are impossible. Organized by the Social Security Administration (SSA), the SSN can be applied for while getting a visa or once you are already in the US. In either case it shouldn't be a problem to receive it if you have the correct documents.

The SSN can be requested when applying for a visa...

If you requested an SSN card as part of your visa application, U.S. Department of State (DoS), Form DS 230, “Application for Immigrant Visa and Alien Registration” or the electronic Form DS 260, “Immigrant Visa Electronic Application”, then the Dos and Department of Homeland Security will give the SSA the necessary information.

There is no extra application needed if you applied through this route.

Within three weeks of arrival in the US you should receive a SSN card to your mailing address. The permanent resident card will also be sent there.

... and also if you did not request when you applied

If you did not request an SSN card as part of your visa application then you must go to a Social Security office to apply.

When you visit a Social Security office to apply for a Social Security card, take the following papers with you:

  • Your passport with your Machine-Readable Immigrant Visa (MRIV) or Permanent Resident Card (Form I-551) if you have it; and,
  • your birth certificate and a birth certificate for each member of your family applying for a Social Security number.

A representative will help you complete the application in the office. Once everything is complete it should take just two weeks to receive the card.

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What about renewing an existing green card?

The process for renewing an existing green card is different to requesting a SSN. To replace or renewal a green card, you’ll need to file Form I-90, Application to Replace Permanent Resident Card, and a filing fee with USCIS. You may download the application and instructions directly from USCIS.gov.

Once the process is complete then the new green card will last for ten years.

More information can be found by calling Social Security's number, 1-800-772-1213. This is free but can only be called once inside the US.