If you are working in the United States on a nonimmigrant visa, your employer will ask for your Social Security number (SSN) along with proof of your legal authorization to work in the United States. In general, only those authorized to work in the United States by the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can obtain an SSN. But if your visa has expired, you’ve changed employers, or you have a new visa, what happens to your SSN?
Is my SSN old? Do I need a new SSN?
Once you receive a Social Security number (SSN), you never receive a new one. The same SSN will be used for any future employment.
Is my SSN restricted?
If you are not a US citizen or lawful permanent resident, you may have a work restriction listed on your card. Restricted SSN cards will have a stamp that indicates one of the following:
- “VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION” or “VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH INS AUTHORIZATION.” These SSN cards have been issued to people lawfully admitted to the United States on a temporary basis who have DHS authorization to work.
- “NOT VALID FOR EMPLOYMENT.” These SSN cards have been issued to people from other countries who are either:
- Lawfully admitted to the United States without work authorization from DHS, but have a valid non-work reason for needing a Social Security number
- Need a number because of a federal law requiring a Social Security number to get a benefit or service
Employers are instructed to NOT accept restricted SSN cards attached to work authorizations as a List C document for Form I-9, Employment Eligibility Verification.
Can I work with an SSN but no work visa?
As a foreign national, you are only authorized to work in the United States with a valid nonimmigrant visa. You are not legally authorized to work with an SSN alone. You must have and maintain a valid work visa in order to be legally authorized to work. Working on an SSN without a valid work visa is not authorized, and is considered an immigration violation.
If your visa has expired, or you have changed employers, you will require a new visa before you can begin working using your SSN.
How do I re-prove my work authorization?
If you have changed employers, or you have obtained a new work visa, you must present your new immigration documents in support of your work authorization to begin working. In general, one of the following documents can be used to prove work authorization:
- A copy of your permanent resident card
- A copy of your Employment Authorization Document
- A copy of your Form I-797 Approval Notices
- A copy of your foreign passport AND your Form I-94
Additional Outside Resources
- USCIS: Employers—Are You Accepting a Restricted Social Security Card?
- USCIS: Green Card
- USCIS: I-765, Application for Employment Authorization
- USCIS: Form I-797, Types and Functions
- USCBP: Official Site for Travelers Visiting the United States – Apply for or Retrieve Form I-94, Request Travel History and Check Travel Compliance
We Can Help!
Don’t know where to start? If you have questions about your authorization to work in the United States, we can help. The immigration lawyers at Richards and Jurusik Immigration Law have more than 20 years of experience helping foreign nationals (especially Canadians) live and work in the United States. Contact us today for a free assessment of your legal situation.