News | Forum
TN | H-1 | L-1 | B-1 | E-2
Links | Handbook
Fees | Retainer
U.S. Social Security Numbers for Canadians-A FAQ to Remove the Mysteries
Answers1. What is this FAQ all about?
The U.S. Social Security card serves as a national identity document. Canadians will be surprised to find that they will need to recite their social security number frequently. Even their small children will need a number. In fact, your own payroll department will probably be the first to require this number.
This page answers the inevitable questions you will receive from your new Canadian employees. We hope it will make your job easier.
The operative word is need.
You can get a non-working Social Security Card when you are required to have one by law.
This means that if you are in the U.S. legally and someone says you "must" have a social security number, ask for proof that you are legally required to have one. You should submit this proof along with your SS-5 Social Security Card Application.
This number is not valid for employment. If you ever use this number for employment, the Social Security Administration can advise the Immigration Service. You must show Social Security a valid reason for this number. Reasons include identification for school or to open bank accounts. You can change the number to a working number when you get work permission from the INS.
In practice, the Social Security Admnistration will seldom, if ever, give out non-working numbers. The SSA's position is that an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) takes care of the needs of any non-working Canadians.
The ITIN is a nine digit number issued by the IRS to people who need a number, but who cannot get a social security number.
Apply for an ITIN using form W-7, Application for IRS Individal Taxpayer Identification Number.
Go to a Social Security office with your Green Card or other proof of work permission. This other proof is most often form I-94, Arrival and Departure Record. Also take your birth certificate or passport.
Social Security instructions ask you to appear in person, since "immigration documents should not be mailed". If you do not have work permission, take proof of your legal status with your birth certificate or passport.
Review form SS-5, Application for A Social Security Number Card, before applying. That form has detailed and easy to read instructions. Reviewing the form before appearing in person may prevent an unnecessary trip. Advance preparation will allow you to intelligently discuss your needs with a contact person who may not be familiar with immigration documents.
We supply and fill out these forms for our clients as a service of our office. You can also request the form by telephone from the nearest Social Security office.
You can appeal the decision, however most denials are caused by misunderstandings. The applicant often does not request the proper type of social security number---working or non-working. Social Security employees sometimes do not understand immigration documents. Further explanation usually resolves the problem.
You cannot work legally with just the Social Security card. The Social Security card itself does not give you permission to work. You will need an immigration permit---such as an L-1 or TN---to legally work.
There are even cases where a person may have a working number, but not have employment permission. For example, you can get a social security number by showing temporary work status on your form I-94. This working status eventually expires even though your social security number is valid.
You should be careful to see that you always renew your temporary immigration status. Better yet, apply for permanent status well before your temporary status expires. Permanent status lets you avoid renewals.
Beginning September 1992, if your initial Social Security card is based on temporary immigration work status, your Social Security card will include a special notation. This notation will read "Valid for work only with INS authorization".
Having a Social Security card is irrelevant. It will not help or hurt your case.
The U.S. and Canada have formally agreed to improve Social Security protection for people who work, or have worked, in both countries. According to the Social Security Administration:
It is wise to consult with experts in the field of benefits and compensation on this issue and on other related issues. Our office would be happy to refer your human resource manager to such expertise.
The Social Security Administration provides documents explaining international agreements, including the agreement with Canada. The document discusses highlights of the agreement and explains how you may be affected if you have worked (or will work) in both the U.S. and Canada.
For further information you can also write to:
Social Security Administration
You may also wish to take advantage of possible social security tax benefits through advance planning.