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Social Security Number

Social Security Numbers (SSN) are widely used in the United States by citizens and other eligible immigrants and non-immigrants as “unique identifiers” for a variety of purposes, including:

  • U.S. salary, wages, or payment

  • Bank accounts and investments

  • Credit cards and loans

  • Identification and Massachusetts driver's license

  • Tax returns


The Social Security Administration (SSA) allows only non-immigrant visa holders who are “work authorized or work eligible” to obtain an SSN.

Eligible for an SSN:

  • J-1 Exchange Visitors

  • H-1B Temporary Specialty Workers

  • E-3 Temporary Specialty Workers (and E-3D Dependents)

  • O-1 Extraordinary Ability

  • USMCA Professional (TN) visa Workers


Eligible for an SSN with valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by USCIS:

  • J-2

Not eligible for an SSN:

  • H-4*

  • TD

  • O-3D

* Certain H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B nonimmigrants can seek an H-4 EAD.


Required SSN Application Documents for the following visa holders:

  • J-1, H-1B, E-3, O-1, TN
    • Passport

    • I-94 record

    • Visa status document (DS-2019, I-797)

  • J-2
    • Passport

    • I-94 record

    • Visa status document (DS-2019,)

    • Employment Authorization Documentation (EAD). A J-2 can choose to request an SSN at the time of filing for the EAD or obtain an SSN after issuance of the EAD.

If you are a J-2 or E-3D spouse, you will need to have received EAD from USCIS. EAD processing time is usually two to three months. Bring the approved EAD card with you in order to obtain an SSN.

How to obtain an SSN

Note: If you are in J-1 visa status, you should NOT apply until at least 7-10 business days after you register with GPS. Waiting 7-10 days ensures that the SSA can electronically verify your immigration information with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). Your SSN application may be significantly delayed if you do not wait the recommended time period.

Take the following steps to apply for an SSN:

  1. Initiate the application process online and submit the Online Social Security Number Application on the SSA website.

  1. Complete the application process by visiting your local Social Security Office within 45 calendar days of having submitted the online SSN application. Visit  or call 1-800-772-1213 to find the SSA office nearest to you. Bring a copy of your confirmation number from your online SSN application process (step 1) and your original hard copy immigration documents with you to the in-person visit.

  1. After you complete your in-person visit, the SSN card will be mailed to you within two to six weeks. You should request an SSN receipt confirming your application. If you will be paid by the U.S. hospital, you can present the SSN receipt at your hospital orientation to sign on to payroll.

If you apply and you do not receive your Social Security card in the mail within eight weeks, contact or re-visit the Social Security Office where you originally applied for the SSN. If the SSA office explains that your card has not been issued for a specific reason, contact us for help. If the SSA does not explain a particular reason for not issuing the card, your card may have been lost in the mail and you should ask for the card to be replaced.

The nine-digit number on the card is your personal unique SSN. Keep the card and number in a safe place.