I have seen many new H1B holders ask this question regarding SSN a lot on why you need SSN and where is the official documentation for the same for H1B Visa holders. We will cover all of that info and point you to the US Social Security Administration website links so that you can check it yourself.
Why get SSN when you work in America ? What is the importance in Work Context ?
SSN stands for Social Security Number, you can read the importance of SSN in America …In the context of non-US citizens, SSN is issued to individuals, who are authorized by the Department of Homeland Security to work in the US like H1B Visa holders, L1 Visa holders, F1 Student Workers, etc. SSN is used by your H1B Sponsor or Employer to report your wages to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). It is a requirement by IRS that employers use it to report wages for taxation purposes.
Is it not required to have SSN to start working ? Can I work without SSN ?
Yes, according to Social Security Administration, you can start to work without SSN. Typically what you need is a confirmation letter from SSA conforming that you applied for SSN. Read this document on SSA website. The biggest catch is that, it is not your problem as a H1B holder, it is your employer’s or H1B Sponsor’s issue as they are required to report the wages to IRS.
Legally, your employer or H1B Sponsor has to pay you salary when you are in America on H1B Visa. They cannot just hold you without paying because there is no SSN. Technically, after October 1st, the H1B Visa status kicks in with the Change of Status (COS) for anyone within America, who applied for H1B with COS…Similarly, for any new H1B holders arrived in US in late September or early October .
According to USCIS regulations of I-9 form, your employer has to fill the I-9 form, within 3 days of joining the company, which would be anytime you land in US after October 1st. All your employer has to do is to indicate the SSN field as “Pending” and then update it later, once you get the SSN. Read this document from a US university .
In some exceptional cases, like say due to the US Government shutdown, IRS would recognize the dependency on SSA for SSN and give waiver for employers to report the first month or two wages at a later time once the shutdown ends and they apply for SSN. In reality, it is completely fine to work without SSN in the beginning and indicate it as pending, the employer would have to update the same information on I-9 forms after you send him the SSN.
What has been your experience ?
Did you employer let you work without SSN ?