1999 VIKRAM BADRINATH, P.C. All rights reserved.



Generally, in order for an alien to receive many accepted identification documents (e.g., driver's licenses, bank accounts, stock holdings, employment, etc.) in the United States, an alien must possess a valid social security number ("SSN") issued by the U.S. Social Security Administration ("SSA"). In this regard, possess of a valid, unexpired "work permit" or employment authorization document issued by the U.S. INS will allow an alien to receive a SSN. However, this is not the only option.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) can issue three (3) types of taxpayer identification numbers: social security numbers ("SSN's"), individual taxpayer identification numbers ("ITIN's"), and employer identification numbers ("EIN's"). Many aliens mistakenly believe that they are required to have a U.S. SSN. However, the SSA issues lesser-known alternative nubmeres to individuals, known as an individual taxpayer identification number that can satisfy most of the earnings reporting needs of undocumented aliens and nonimmigrants. In this regard, ITINs are available to individuals who cannot otherwise obtain a valid SSN. Lawful aliens do not need SSNs to purchase U.S. savings bonds, and some do not need SSNs to conduct business with a financial institution. Af amily member of an alien does not need a SSN to register for school, particpate in group health insurance coverage, apply for school lunch programs, or apply for HUD housing. Further, federal law prohibits States from requiring a SSN to issue a nondriver identification card.

Generally, aliens may gain SSNs in three (3) instances: (1) if the alien is a permanent resident of the United States or has a lawful status permitting him to work in the United States (e.g., H-1B, L-1, TN-1, etc.); (2) if the alien has a legal status not permitting him to work, but the alien can show that he has a valid nonwork purpose and needs a SSN; or (3) aliens without evidence of alien status may be assigned a SSN for a nonwork purpose if the necessary evidence does not exist, and if the alien, residing in the United States, needs the SSN by law as a condition for receiving a federally-funded benefit. Additionally, foreigners who reside outside the United States who require a SSN by law as a condition of receiving a federally-funded benefit may also receive a nonwork SSN.

Obtaining a Social Security Number (SSN)

In order to receive a SSN, the SSA requires certain evidence pertaining to age, U.S. citizenship or alien status, and true identity before it will issue a SSN. Normally, all documents must be originals or certified copies of originals. The SSA will not issue a SSN to any person who presents invalid or expired documents.

Application Procedure

Normally, an alien must complete Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Number Card at avny local social security office and submitting the necessary evidence listed above. Aliens who are overseas may submit an application for a SSN, but may be required to have an in-person interview to demonstrate eligibility. Forms may be obtained by calling 1-800-325-0778, by visiting a local SSA office, or by downloading directly from the SSA website.


Obtaining an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number

On July 1, 1996, the IRS began issuing ITINs to aliens who are otherwise ineligible to receive a SSN but need a taxpayer identification number for tax purposes. In light of this IRS development, the SSA has stated that an alien's assertion that he needs a SSN for tax reporting purposes is no longer a valid reason to obtain a SSN. An ITIN is a tax processing number only for certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents. It may be used for income tax purposes only. ITINS do not entitle an alien to social security benefits or the earned income tax credit, create any inferences regarding an alien's immigration status, or give an alien a right to work in the United States.

An ITIN is only available to aliens who cannot obtain a SSN.

Application Procedure

Normally, an alien must complete IRS Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. The alien must submit two (2) forms of identification (passport, foreign voter registration card, birth or marriage certificate, or INS documentation) and a recent photograph. . Forms may be obtained by calling the IRS, by visiting a local IRS office, or by downloading directly from the IRS website.

For more information about receiving or applying for a SSN or ITIN, please contact us by email, telephone, or fax or schedule an appointment to have your individual case discussed and analyzed an attorney.