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Can you Start Working in US on H1B Visa without SSN ? Why SSN ?

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 ?


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  1. Hello Kumar,

    I am in US on H1B. Due to covid, ssa offices are closed and by call I got to know it may take upto 2 months for an appointment for SSN.

    The article states, one can start working without SSN but my employer is saying we have to wait for SSN number before onboarding.

    1) I understand this article is pretty old , what are the new rules for SSN?

    2) will I have to stay without s
    pay in US till I get the SSN?

    3) Will I go out if status on H1 if SSN is delayed by 2 months or more because of non availability of appointment at SSA office ?

    • Hi Kumar ,

      I too am in the same situation. It’s been almost 7 weeks and I haven’t got an appointment yet.. Please let me know what are the consequences and what actions can we take from our side.  If SSN is  delayed does it  impact H1B status, but as per my guess there has to be some exclusive rules in this current pandemic situation.
      Please let me know how to proceed and is waiting for the SSN the only solution ?

      • Rekha,
        It is more from the employer side for taxes. As long as you are maintaining status and getting paid, you are fine. Work with your employer and see what can be done. In current situations maybe waiting, but this is a very different situation and cannot say. Try to call the SSN office and ask for options. Maybe they have some guidance on their website for your situation with COVID delays.

  2. Hi…
    I came to US on Nov29 2018 and my visa is valid till 2018 DEC 31. Right now I applied extension it was filed with UCSIS by 21 Dec 2018. I went to SSN office and they informed me to get my I94 Extended as it is already expired 31 DEC 2018. Kindly advise me here to apply SSN in this case. Even now can I go head and apply SSN with expired I94???

    Thanks in advance

    • Well, in general, you should apply in first week after you arrive in US. Also, you have been in US for over a month, you should have been paid to maintain status on H1B…to get paid you needed an SSN… You may try going to SSN office, indicating that you had transfer petition filed before I-94 expiration and showing the USCIS H1B receipt notice and tell that you plan to work for the new employer using the receipt notice… It is a tricky situation, I suggest you talk to your attorney…

  3. Hi.. I’m an Indian I want to go to USA for working. But I don’t have any visa. I found a website to apply for job. But there is asking ssn number… How can I get the number in India. Is it possible to apply without ssn number..?

  4. I am planning to go to US by dec 2014 on H1 visa. Currently I an India. My employer mentioned the currently one can start working only once he receives the SSN. Earlier it was possible tio start working with a confirmation lette from SSA that the SSN is applied. SSA suggests to apply for SSN 10 days after reaching US, after applying it will take approx 2 weeks to get the number. That means approx 3-4 weeks I need to be there without work. Is this right? Is there any way around to start working immediately reaching US?

    • Check this new process to apply from home country before coming to US http://www.socialsecurity.gov/ssnvisa/#a0=-1
      Maybe this will help you to reduce time.

      I arrived on October 17 and went to SSN office on 21st Oct. They told me to come after 10 days because data entry from homeland dept is still pending. They also gave me an option to apply and we’ll do the entry manually to all systems but this will take almost 2 months. So its better to come after 10 days and we’ll issue the SSN within two weeks max. I communicated to my employer and they asked to visit after one week. Next week I again went and this time i was told the same story that my data entry is pending. But this time she told me it will take 4 weeks if we process it anyway. Manually they will send my docs to immigration dept and they will confirm my status. My employer told me to do it and wait for 4 weeks. My employer is not giving me the employment contract without having SSN number. And I’m waiting for it. Although its written in the letter issued from SSA that I can work during this waiting period. But my employer has some federal project which requires SSN number manadatory for a person to work there. What bothering me is now that in worst case scenario if my SSN gets delayed then what would be effect on my H1 legal status in which you have to show wages within three months after you land on US soil.

      • Hi

        I am same kind of situation , Can you please let me know if your employer allowed you to work then or what would be the consequences of the delay?


  5. Hi,
    I got my new H1B visa stamp on oct 20th 2013 and I am living in Bahamas, when should I travel to the USA. Because at present, the company where I am working is not allowing me to leave the job until end of January 2014 as per the contract signed. Can I stay until this period. Is there any problems if traveled after three months after issuing H1B stamp. The stamp is valid upto 2015. Pls help this matter. And also I plan to enter USA just for applying SSN and leaving on the same day, if I do this is there any problems when I enter back again to the USA. Please suggest me. Waiting for your valuable suggestions. Thank you

  6. Can I get the SSN number after I apply until I wait for the actual card to be mailed? I heard they might give the number alone in a couple of days… how far is it true?

  7. Hi Saurabh,
    I have a valid work Auth (H1B) starting 1st Oct 2013 but my name on passport and I797/94 is reversed because of no last name on passport:


    Given Name: XXXX YYYYY

    Last Name/Surname: blank


    Given Name: No Name Given

    Last Name/Family Name: XXXX YYYYY

    When I applied to social security card I was told by officer that this might take longer than expected because of the reversed name and will go to DHS.

    After 2 weeks I get a letter saying we cannot issue you a social security card at this time because:

    The Department of Homeland Security is unable to verify the immigration document you submitted as evidence of your lawful alien Status. You should contact that agency to clarify your current immigration status.

    I am not sure what could the problem here, any help would be really appreciated.

  8. Hi Saurabh,

    Have 2 questions:
    1)I entered USA before 15 days of my H1B visa expiry date and at port of entry they punched my I94 valid date till 10th Oct 2013 only. Luckily my visa is extended (thru premium process) till 2016.
    When I entered USA, USA govt was shut down so didnt able to apply for SSN. As shutdown is over, I am planning to apply for SSN this week but concern here is about the supporting docs I am carrying are my passport in which Visa stamp is showing as 30th Sept 2013 and I94 valid till 10th oct 2013.
    Will they accept this as my supporting docs for applying SSN? Or I need to carry any other docs like new I797 or 1129 docs are of any help for this??

    2) I read in USCIS site that the person must leave USA before the date printed in I94 to avoid any kind of ban to enter US. Is it true? If you see my case what need to be done? My visa is extended till 2016. If I94 expires, extended Visa is of no use and it will be considered as illegal stay as I94 is expired?

  9. I am going to US on new H1B sometime next month. I have already been to the US on L1 VISA and worked for 3.5 years from 2008 to 2011. Do I need to apply again and get a new SSN or Can I still use the one which I have got when I was in L1 Visa?

    • Mouli,
      You can use the previous SSN. That doesn’t need to change w/ the visa and is good for your US stay throughout the life.

  10. When I came to USA to work for the first time on L1,my company created a dummy/temp SSN till the time I received my original SSN.After I got my SSN within 3 weeks they replaced the system with the main SSN. Nothing was changed while I was on temp SSN.I received my pay ,exepenses etc.everything



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