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You CAN work before you receive your Social Security Card

Friday, June 10, 2011 by

Social Security Administration website screenshot

Social Security Administration

If you are going to work in the USA as a participant of the Work & Travel USA program or Internship USA program, you are required to apply for the Social Security Card. The reason is that your employer needs the associated Social Security Number shown on the card to enter your wage into their accounting system, for reporting your taxes, etc.

So much is clear, but if you are going to participate in the program for the first time, you don’t have the card right after you arrive! You have to apply for it, and it may take a few weeks before you receive it. Can you work without having the card?

Yes you can work! You have to:

  1. visit your nearest Social Security Administration office
  2. apply for the card, and
  3. ask for a receipt confirming that you have indeed applied

As soon as you have the receipt, you can start working.

OK, so you can work, but how can your employer pay you without your having the Social Security Number (SSN) yet? It’s again very simple. If your employer files the wage reports on paper, he will enter “Applied for” as a replacement for the SSN. If your employer files the wage reports electronically, he’ll enter all zeros in the SSN field . And after you receive your Social Security Card, your employer will fileĀ Form W-2c (Corrected Wage and Tax Statement), to show your SSN.

So far so simple, but what if your employer has his or her own idea how this works and can not believe that all this is true? In that case, direct your employer to these two locations on the official Social Security Administration website, where he or she can verify that what you are saying is correct:

IMPORTANT: The Social Security Administration will compare the data you enter in the application with your SEVIS registration. In other words, if you apply for your Social Security Card before you are registered in SEVIS, you can expect all sorts of confusion and delays.

P.S. Repeat participants, do not apply for the card again! You have it for life.

Questions? Ask below :-) In English, please.

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