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Social Security And Foreign Workers

Foreign workers authorized to work can apply for a Social Security card. To apply for a card, an application must be completed and filed and proof made of immigration status, work eligibility, age and identity.

Proof of immigration status is shown by the arrival departure record issued when you enter the U.S.; if you have F-1 or M-1 student status, the I-20, certificate of eligibility, must be shown too. If you have J-1 or J-2 status, exchange visitor, form DS 2019 must be exhibited also.

AGE – For proof of age, a birth certificate must be produced or if not practical the Social Security office will accept your passport or a document from the Department of Homeland Security.

IDENTITY – Your passport with your visa and/or your arrival departure record or your work permit card from the department of Homeland Security will suffice.

HOW LONG WILL IT TAKE TO GET THE S.S. CARD? – The Department of Homeland Security must first verify your documents before giving you the card. Usually this is quickly done online. If the documents are not available online, processing may take several weeks.

TO START WORK – You may start work before the issuance of the card. While waiting for the card, the employer may rely on a letter from the Social Security office stating that you applied for a card.


An H-1B status (specialized worker) is normally granted for a maximum of six years. An L-1 (intra-company transferee) is admitted normally for a maximum period of five years (for specialized workers) or seven years for managers and/or executives. By the end of these allowable times, the H-1 or L-1 must either change to another category other than H or L or leave the country. When the H or L alien leaves the U.S. for a period in excess of one year, he/she is then qualified to apply for a new H or L status and be granted the same maximum periods as before.

EXEMPTIONS OF STAY BEYOND THE MAXIMUN PERIODS – H-1Bs who are sponsored by an employer for permanent residence, and who are experiencing delays on their process may be granted an extension of these maximum times, regardless if they are in the U.S. or outside. Bureaucratic delays or unavailability of visa numbers will allow an H-1 additional periods of admission if 365 days or more have elapsed since the filing of an application for Labor Certification, or 365 or more days have passed since the filing of an immigrant preference petition if the H-1B is the beneficiary of an approved preference petition and is not able to adjust status to permanent residence because there are no available immigrant visa numbers.

An alien in H-1B status who did not remain in the U.S. for all of the period granted may seek readmission for the remaining unused time of the six year maximum admission time.

If you need help or advise, call us at (212)944-9420.

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