You must have a Social Security number to work legally in the United States. To obtain a Social Security Card, you have to go in person to your local Social Security office and bring the following documents with you (originals and two photocopies of each on separate pages):
- Passport and J-1 Visa
- Sponsor letter (optional)
- Training Plan (DS-7002)
- I-94 form
- Form SS-5. You can complete this form in advance to save time: https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ss-5.pdf
You can find the address of your nearest Social Security Office by following this link: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp. The Social Security Administration recommends that you always wait at least 5 days after registering with SEVIS to apply for your card to be sure you are validated in SEVIS. The mailing address on the application should be the host company’s address or the address of your accommodation if you are permanently living there. The Social Security card will be mailed approximately 6-8 weeks later.
You should ask the Social Security officer for a Form SSA-5030 proving that you have applied for the card and give it to your host company. Host companies may use temporary numbers in their payroll system (zeros) if the actual number is not available before the first payroll. If your host company is not sure how to report your wages before you have received your Social Security number, please ask them to go to the Social Security Administration’s website at: http://www.ssa.gov/employer/hiring.htm
The Social Security office will not process your application until you have been validated in the SEVIS system. If your SEVIS verification process is delayed, your host company may not be able to issue stipend checks until you have received this card (although you must be paid for all the time you have spent training). You should bring sufficient funds to cover living expenses during this period, which could be at least one month.
If you have a social security number from a previous experience in the United States then you can use this and do not need to apply for another.