Visas are legal documents that serve to indicate that a person is authorized to enter the issuing country. This fundamental document allows people to travel to a specified area for a specified amount of time. The J-1 is a non-immigrant visa that U.S. immigration uses to allow exchange visitors to participate in science, art, and educational exchange programs. According to the rules of the program, applicants must fulfil eligibility criteria and obtain sponsorship from either a government program or any private sector organization. For those who will receive compensation from their U.S. host organization, a Social Security Number (SSN) is a requirement.
The Need For A Social Security Number
If you plan on receiving compensation by your U.S. host organization, you will need an SSN. The reason is that you will pay taxes on all of the income you earn in the U.S. as a J-1 trainee or intern. The card serves many purposes including employment eligibility. Your employment eligibility verification takes place when your host organization enrolls you into their payroll system. Even if the program is unpaid, an SSN is excellent to have because the SSN may be a requirement to open a bank account, rent an apartment, or to make a large purchase. Be sure to speak with your host organization in advance to determine if they require an SSN.
Applying For Your Card
There are instructions for applying for your SSN on the Social Security Administration website. You must go to a local Social Security office and apply in person for your Social Security number. The process is straightforward, and the office can assist you with any questions that you may ask of them. Although it is a simple process, it can take two weeks so plan accordingly. The following steps are required to obtain an SSN:
1. Validation of a visa is a requirement for getting an SSN. Upon arrival to the U.S., participants must submit a U.S. residential address.
2. Go to a local Social Security office with the required documentation to apply. The following are required documents:
• Form SS-5. The SSN application form is available here.
• Form DS-2019
• Letter of sponsorship
• I-94 Record
• Passport with J-1 visa
• Form DS-7002
• Offer letter from the host company
3. Wait for SSN processing which may take up to two weeks. The agency will mail the card to the residential address provided. Your host organization can add you to their payroll without an SSN. A participant can show a receipt of having applied for a card, or the host organization can provide a temporary number for the payroll until the number arrives. An individual must submit their SSN to their host organization as soon as it comes.
Social Security Card Type
Social Security offers three types of cards. You will receive the number two card that is valid for work only with DHS authorization. This particular card is for people with temporary admittance to the U.S. for employment. If you feel that the card you receive is incorrect, contact your visa sponsor and go to a local Social Security office to correct the problem. If you have an SSN from prior work experience, know that it is a lifelong number and you do not need to apply for a new SSN.
J Visa Medical Insurance
As you prepare for your work experience, remember that you are required to purchase medical insurance for your visit. J visa insurance plans meet the requirements set forth by the U.S. Department of State. You can buy exchange visitors insurance for five days up to one year at a time. This insurance will keep you compliant with J-1 visa requirements and may cover:
• Emergency medical expenses
• Emergency medical evacuation
• Accidental death and dismemberment
• Prescription drugs
• Return of mortal remains
Protect Your Identity
It is vital to keep your number safe. Remember there is a connection between your number and your tax information, payroll information, bank account, driver’s license, and other sensitive information. Identity theft is common, and people steal numbers to use identities to engage in criminal activity. The American Immigration Council will not need to know your information for any reason, and neither do most people. Protecting your information is your responsibility.