By L. Patricia Ice, Featured Columnist

Question:  What is the process for a non United States citizen to get a Social Security Card?

Answer:  Non-citizen applicants must submit a form SS-5 application and present documents proving age, identity and immigration status that show their employment eligibility at a local Social Security Administration (SSA) office.  The SSA will examine the immigration documents and verify the status using the “Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements” (SAVE) computer program.  The SAVE database is a nationally accessible database of selected immigration status information on over 60 million records.  It gives federal, state and local government agencies and licensing bureaus access to immigration status information in order to determine eligibility for many public benefits.  However, it takes at least 10 days or more for immigration status information to get into the SAVE database. 

Applicants should wait at least 10 days after arriving in the United States for the first time as a lawful permanent resident or after receiving an immigration benefit, such as an employment authorization document, before applying for the Social Security Card.  If SAVE verifies the applicant’s information, the SSA will continue to process the application.  If SAVE does not verify the information, the SSA makes copies of the immigration documents and holds the application for 10 days.  If SAVE finally verifies the information then processing is continued.  If not, the SSA submits an electronic additional verification (EAV) directly to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).  If status is verified by Homeland Security, the SSA continues to process the application.  If status is not verified by the DHS the application is denied.  Sometimes DHS requests paper copies of the immigration document(s) presented. This may delay processing the application.  Once verification of status is completed it generally takes about two weeks for the card to be issued. 

Please check the Social Security Administration website at to find out more detailed information about the Social Security Card application process.


Featured IMDiversity Immigration Columnist L. Patricia Ice is an attorney and counselor who has taught immigration law at Mississippi College School of Law in Jackson, and also contributes regular immigration advice stories to La Noticia and The Jackson Advocate.  A practicing attorney, Ms. Ice is a former Equal Justice Works Katrina Legal Fellow, focusing on immigrant family and employment issues in areas around the Gulf Coast.  Ms. Ice trains law students in the extern program of the Mississippi College School of law. She is also dedicated to immigrants rights advocacy, and serves as the Director of the Legal Project  of the non-profit rights education group, MIRA: The Mississippi Immigrants Rights Alliance at

Articles in this column are Copyright 2006-2009 L. Patricia Ice.  All rights reserved.  Please do not reproduce further without seeking the permission of the author. is committed to presenting diverse points of view. However, the viewpoint expressed in this article is the opinion of the author and is not necessarily the viewpoint of the owners or employees at IMD.