Does submitting paystubs with fake Social Security number a problem for DREAMers?

Kathy writes, "I have a question regarding my boyfriend's DACA application. For the past 3 years he's been working for his aunt's company with a fake SSN.  Should he not submit any proof from work? He can submit a letter from the company, instead of submitting paycheck stubs with the fake SS#. Should he just not mention anything but provide his real income on the i-765 ws?"

DACA is a risky program for those with illegal work history:  It is a complicated and delicate situation and it is best to discuss this with your attorney because it has huge long term consequences.  Thousands of people are in the same situation and they have done what you two are thinking, have gotten approved, but is it the best legal strategy?  No one knows.

Providing documentation of unauthorized employment to USCIS can become a problem in the future:  You see, when someone works illegally, uses a false Social Security number, while in the country illegally, that individual has already broken a bunch of laws.  At this time, the USCIS is not asking directly if someone has used a fake SSN and what that number is, but it is generally understood that having done so and getting a DACA approval does not guarantee immunity from prosecution at a later time.  In other words, any time a person admits to working illegally and/or using a fake SS#, he is confessing to a serious crime and voluntarily submitting evidence to the Federal Government.  It seems that your boyfriend must also be filing his taxes; in other words, he has already confessed to the crimes and submitted evidence of them to the IRS.

While the Feds know that undocumented immigrants are working illegally, DACA gives them the evidence that maybe used against them:   So if he merely declares that income (hiding that income would be a perjury, yet another crime) but does not disclose its source maybe irrelevant because his employer is already providing that information to the Social Security Administration and IRS.  In any case, unless someone can document that income from other sources (say, investments or inheritance or gifts) it is understood that it is through employment.  The bottom line is that your boyfriend already has broken many laws, and provided evidence of it over the years, and we do not know how future laws will affect his case, particularly related to immigration benefits, but if getting DACA is important to him, filing the paperwork may not provide add to the evidence much but it sure makes him admit under oath that he broke all of those laws.

The legal opinion on this is divided in cases like this and I have discussed the risks of applying and worst cases scenarios for DREAMers.  Some attorneys are advising against filing for DACA while others are hoping that Congress may write laws in the future exonerating some of these crimes.  In any case, you will need an excellent attorney to guide you through this very complex situation.

Completed sample Form I-131 for DACA Dreamers

As I have been saying repeatedly, if you are a DREAMer approved for DACA, do not even think about leaving the United States, unless you are willing to risk not being able to reenter the country.  It is somewhat likely that you maybe denied entry into the US, detained/arrested, and/or sent back to the country whose passport you present at the United States Customs and Border Patrol checkpoint either at an airport or land crossing.  The advanced parole feature does allow international travel in exceptional cases, but for DREAMers who entered without inspection, have accumulated years of unlawful presence in the US, and/or have a criminal history, even if they are able to re-enter the country, their immigration cases can be jeopardized.  Since each cases is handled by a CBP officer individually, it is impossible to predict the outcome

However, if the need to travel overseas is critical, then you can complete USCIS Form I131 as shown below.  Your best option is to complete it online, save it, and then print it on a white paper.  Sign it with a black pen.  Put all the documents needed, particularly a copy of your I-797 approval notice, and then mailed by USPS Express Mail/Courier to:

Attn: Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals
131 S. Dearborn - 3rd Floor
Chicago, IL 60603-5517

You will need to pay a fee that you can check at their website.

Part 1 Information About you

Item 1:  Put you A number from your EAD and other documents that you must have received from the USCIS.

Item 2:   Enter your date of birth as shown in your birth certificate.

Item 3:  For class of admission, just write DACA.

Item 4:  Check your correct gender.

Item 5:  Type your name exactly as it appears on your employment authorization card.

Item 6:  Provide your address in the US.

Item 7:  Enter your country of birth.

Item 8:  Enter the country whose passport you will be using to enter the United States, and hopefully, it is the same country that you have listed in your DACA application.  If you have other passports that you will be using overseas, do not mention them here.

Item 9:  It is best to apply for AP after receiving your SSN.  Do not try to travel without a SS# and do not enter your fake SSN if you have been using one.

Part 2  Application Type

Check d which reads as "I am applying for an advanced parole document to allow me to return to the United States after temporary foreign travel."

Part 3 Processing Information

Item 1:  Try to be as accurate as possible but you do not need to have tickets booked for this date.  Just try to estimate when you plan to leave.

Item 2:  Write down the number of days you wish to stay overseas.

Item 3:  Unless you are currently in removal proceedings, and in that case you better deal with an attorney to decide what to do because you really shouldn't be traveling, check No.

Item 4:  Leave blank.

Item 5:  Check a that says "To the US address shown in part 1 of the first page of this form."

Part 4 Information about your proposed travel

Purpose of trip:  Depending on your situation, write down something like:  "Attend meetings at the French subsidiary of my employer," or "Complete research at the computer lab at University of London," or "Visit my dying mother whom I have not seen in seven years."

List the countries you intend to visit:  Simply provide whatever countries are on your itinerary.

Part 5 and 6:  Leave blank.

Part 7:  Write "See attached appendix 1."  On another piece of white paper with your name, A#, and Appendix 1, explain in detail why you need to travel.  If your employer requires you to travel, ask your boss to write a letter explaining that your trip is needed for business purposes.  It should mention meetings that you may need to attend or training that is needed or whatever else you plan to do during the trip, including making presentations or attending conferences.  If you traveling for education purposes, provide documentation from your college and ask your professor or other school authorities to write a letter.  If you are traveling for a humanitarian reason, like a close family member (preferably parent or sibling) who is dying, write down in detail what is going on and why you may want to visit this person for the last time.  If possible, attach a document in English from the doctor treating this individual.

Item 1:  Check the right choice.

Item 2 and 3: Leave blank.

Part 8:  Date and sign the form in black ink and provide a phone number that you can answer.

Completed sample Form SS5 Social Security number application

If you are a DREAMer approved for a work permit in the United States and issued an employment authorization card (also known as EAD or I-766), you are eligible to receive a Social Security number from the Social Security Administration.  This will be your number for the rest of your life and once you have this, you will report it to your employer when you complete Form I-9, to report taxes to the IRS, to apply for credit, and whenever it is asked for by a business or government entity.  You cannot use it to work without a proper employment authorization at all times and it is illegal to let anyone else use your number with your consent.

To apply for the SSN, you will need to go in person to the nearest SSA office (bring plenty of reading material while you wait and be prepared to go through security) with original documents that you have received from USCIS, specifically the EAD card, approval letters, unexpired passport and birth certificate.  In addition, bring a completed Form SS-5 Application for a Social Security Card, preferably typed on a computer and printed on white paper.  Also sign the application using a black or blue pen.

Item 1:  In each box, put your names.  If you have more than one middle names, provide all of them in the box.  If you legally changed your name for any reason, e.g. after wedding, write your name at birth.  If you have used other names, for instance, you were known as Al Smith because your full name is Albert Smith, write Al Smith as well, particularly if you used it in the workplace or a lot of people may know you by that name.  There is no need to mention names that are only used by your family members.  In any case, the name should match that on your EAD.

Item 2:  Leave blank.  DO NOT provide any fake SSN you may have used to work or provided it to school.

Item 3:  Better use the same that you have in your birth certificate or passport.  For instance, Sydney, Australia.

Item 4:  Same as your birth certificate.

Item 5:  Check Legal Alien Allowed To Work.  For the purpose of this application, you are "legal," even though DACA confers no legal status on DREAMers.

Item 6:  Check whatever is applicable, or leave it blank, since the question is voluntary.

Item 7:  Check whatever is applicable, or leave it blank, since the question is voluntary.

Item 8:  Check the correct one.

Item 9:  A.  Write down the complete maiden name of your mother.  B. If you are older than 18, there is no need to provide the mother's SS# (though, you should if she has one), but if you are younger than 18 and she does not have a SSN (needless to say that if she does have a number, you must write it down), check unknown.  DO NOT provide any false numbers or numbers belonging to other person if anyone used them to work or for other purposes.

Item 10:  Exactly the same as item 9 for your father.

Item 11:  Most likely the answers is No for you but if you are not sure that someone acted on your behalf when you were a child and did something like that, then, check "Don't Know."

Item 12 and 13:  Leave blank.

Item 14:  Write the date you will be in the Social Security office.

Item 15:  Provide your phone number that you will answer or can record a voice mail.

Item 16:  Provide your mailing address in the United States.

Item 17:  Sign in black or blue ink.

Item 18:  Check Self if filing for yourself.  Otherwise, pick the right category.

DACA applications pending for more than 90 days

I have already discussed why DACA approvals are taking too long for some DREAMers, but some applicants are reporting excessive delays without a request for evidence (RFE) or any other problem that they are aware of.  There are reports that applications submitted in August 2012 were not approved even by the end of the year 2012.  While this comes as a shock to the applicants, just ask anyone who has ever dealt with the USCIS, consulates, and embassies, and they will tell you that not only the process of getting a visa or approval of some kind take an unusual amount of time, the lack of clarity or any explanation for the delay can cause a lot of anxiety and inconvenience.

Let us assume that the reasons for additional review are due to red flags in your application.  For instance, you know that while you do meet all the requirements and have submitted a complete and accurate application, you do have problem areas like criminal history and/or have submitted affidavits instead of documents asked for and/or you have questionable details.  In that case, until the USCIS has determined without a reasonable doubt that you are eligible, you will need to wait.

Needless to say that if you have major issues with your application, and are not eligible, or filed the application with false information, your application will be examined more thoroughly.  And finally, if you are not eligible for approval and are actually a candidate who has been flagged for deportation, the delay in a decision is a sign that the agencies are simply completing the steps needed for removal proceedings.

Why are some employers reluctant to hire DACA approved candidates?

DREAMers who have been approved for DACA, have a valid work permit, along with a genuine Social Security number are experiencing some hurdles in convincing potential employers that they should hire them.  Carl writes, "I have been told that since I would need a visa sponsorship in the future, they are unable to employ me.  What is going on here?  Can employers discriminate against DACA approved immigrants?"

It is important to understand that DACA does not grant any legal status in the United States and it is unclear what lies ahead for DREAMers.  If DREAM Act is not passed or Comprehensive Immigration Reform does not get through Congress or if the DACA program is declared unconstitutional (it is being challenged in courts), just like that DACA approved DREAMers are without a work permit.  Secondly, while there is a provision for overseas travel through advanced parole, the paperwork involved for the trip, the time the approval can take, and uncertainty whether the candidate will be allowed entry into the United States means that an employee who maybe required to travel internationally will not be able to discourages employers.


Not only employers are free to hire anyone they want, they also want to employ only those individuals who will require minimal effort in coming on board and will not pose any major legal challenges later on.  So for instance, if a company is interested in hiring someone that they can train and who will be there for them over a long term, and they are willing to sponsor that employee for a green card, a DACA approved DREAMer is a problem.  While corporations routinely employ foreign students and foreigners and sponsor them for H1B visas and eventually permanent residency, their cases are straightforward and cause no major headaches.  All things being equal, employers have told me that they prefer employees who require no interaction with USCIS, so citizens and green card holders are top priority.

Why are DREAMers not taking DACA seriously?

When I noticed that so few DREAMers were applying for DACA, I was disappointed because President Obama had to risk a lot of political capital to launch the deferred action for childhood arrivals program, and it was sad to see that undocumented DREAMers not take advantage of it.  While there are several reasons that might be of concern to DREAMers like what will the Government do with their information on illegal activities so far, but one theme that emerges is that these people simply do not have the money to pay the $465 application fee.  I was so concerned about the lack of funds that I gave suggestions on how they should start saving money right now for legalization under DREAM Act, but looks like there is more to the story.

According to Immigration Attorney Jose Luis PeƱalosa, DREAMers are right now enjoying the holidays and spending money on gifts.  He predicts that they will probably start applying in February 2013 when they would be done with paying their holiday shopping bills and will have their tax refunds.  What a shame!  If someone thinks that blowing their money on gifts is more important than assuring that they don't get caught by ICE and deported, then, all those activists who are fighting for immigration reform are probably wasting their time.

Worst case scenario for DACA applicants

Carlos Batara, an immigration lawyer, is quoted by PBS as saying that he is against DREAMers applying for DACA.  He says, "If you're willing to risk and assume that they (US Government) will never come back and use the information you have given them against you to bring you into removal proceedings, and if you assume -- or you assume the DREAM Act is going to pass, that's fine."  Obviously, many other competent attorneys do not seem to agree with this advice and have been telling their clients to file the paperwork for DACA, get a work permit, and have some protection against deportation for two years.  It seems, though, that some undocumented immigrants maybe heeding advice like this and not applying, because with the December 2012 statistics made available by the USCIS, a meager 368,000 people have applied so far, much less than the number expected to apply (data on illegal immigrants is always difficult to collect since most individuals will not admit to their legal status but the estimates ranged all the way to 1.7 millions).

Undocumented immigrants do not appear to have the financial means to pay for their legalization:    It is also being argued that many DREAMers cannot afford the $465 application fee (which is shocking on many levels:  how can anyone in America not have a few hundred dollars?  If these individuals are not able to come up with approximately five hundred dollars, how will they pay for their legalization if DREAM Act is passed?  Should Americans be concerned that if the illegal immigrants are so impoverished that once they are legalized they will not overwhelm the social welfare programs?).

Other than these two reasons for the low number of applicants for DACA is the inability of many undocumented immigrants to compile the documents needed for the application.  Many of them cannot prove their date of entry into the country or have no solid evidence to confirm other requirements.  Of course, I am not even mentioning those who are ineligible by virtue of their criminal histories or dropping out of high school -- details that are often missed by immigrant activists who simply counted as everyone being eligible.

So are attorneys like Batara right about their fears?          The United States government has assured that except for dangerous criminals and terrorists, the data provided by applicants will not be used by any other agency within the government, but here are a few worst-case scenarios that immigrants need to think about:

  1. By providing your fingerprints, information on your background and addresses, entry into the United States, work history, tax returns, etc. an applicant is voluntarily confessing to committing crimes like illegal entry into USA, unlawful presence in the country, false visas/passports/social security cards, working without authorization, identity theft, fraud, etc, providing documentation in support of one's crimes, and thus, implicating themselves.  The application process alone is a solid enough case for conviction and deportation.
  2. The DACA program is temporary and unless a Democratic president replaces Obama in 2016 (and that president too supports the program), this program is not guaranteed to continue. Another president may do whatever he or she wants with the data collected during the DACA program.
  3. Considering the deadlock in Washington, there is no guarantee that DREAM Act and/or comprehensive immigration reform will pass
  4. While government has always maintained immigration files forever, the digitization of the documents has made searching much easier.  In case you did not know, many applications can now be filed electronically and even those like DACA that are filed on paper, as soon as they arrive in an USCIS office, they are first digitized.  This means that from anywhere in the world, US government authorized personnel can access the data with just a few clicks.  No need to send memos to retrieve a file from a remote warehouse.  Also important to note that data can be stored forever without worrying about the cost of storage.  For DREAMers, it means that their biographical information has become part of the United States records and can be used in whatever way the authorities deem fit.
  5. While the assurances from the government are comforting, in times of national crises or in case of a national security threat, exceptions can be made by just a few signatures.
  6. The current assumption is that all the crimes that DREAMers are admitting to in their DACA applications will not disqualify them from receiving future immigration benefits, but it is not known exactly what will be the case with future laws.  For instance, if Congress passes a law that anyone who has ever lied about their immigration status to work cannot receive an immigration benefit, those DREAMers who entered a fake Social Security number on their job application are out of luck.
  7. USCIS has already clarified that by ignoring the criminal actions of DREAMers at this time does not mean that they are immune from prosecution in the future.
  8. Many illegal immigrants used an ITIN to work and file taxes.  Not only is this illegal, when the individual files a tax return with an ITIN for income earned in the United States, she is not only reported to the DHS but a paper trail is created documenting a series of crimes including fraud and working without papers.

How can DREAMers prepare for legalization?

There is plenty of optimism that some form of comprehensive immigration reform will pass under the Obama Administration, and accordingly, DREAMers who are eligible maybe able to legalize their status in the United States.  Obviously, a lot is still unknown, but I wanted to prepare the DREAMers for what is coming next.  The reason I say that you have to start preparing right now is because so many eligible DREAMers have not applied for DACA.  There are many reasons and I do not approve of those DREAMers who are risking deportation by waiting for DREAM Act and dealing with the paperwork just once rather than also getting DACA approval now.   It seems that there is yet another reason DREAMers not applying for DACA: application fee.  Apparently, for many DREAMers it is impossible to come up with even $465.  Coalition for Humane Immigrant Rights' Director of Communications Jorge-Mario Cabrera is quoted by NPR as saying that 80% of DACA eligible applicants in the State of California are not applying because they are too poor to pay the application fee.  He adds that families with multiple kids are simply too broke to pay the application fee, even if they do not hire an attorney to do the paperwork.

All immigration benefits have fees:  It is very important for you to understand that approving an immigration application requires enormous effort and it has to be paid for by the federal government.  Since immigration is not particularly popular among lawmakers and public and while there is some support for legalizing undocumented immigrants Americans balk at the idea of passing on the cost to taxpayers.  It is almost guaranteed that the immigrants who want to live legally in the United States under whatever law is approved by Congress will have to pay for it.  In addition, it is very clear that there will be fines for living in the country illegally.  If you have not paid taxed one every dollar you have earned in the United States, you will also need to pay back taxes, along with whatever penalties and interest that IRS may assess.


So what will be the cost of legalizing status under DREAM Act?  The actual amount will be known only when the law is passed and USCIS provides all the details, but just to give you an idea, the cost of adjusting your status (by filing Form I-485) alone is $1070.  In addition, there will be another application for DREAM Act approval which may cost several hundred dollars.  There maybe a need to file a work permit application through I-765.  While your application is being processed and if you wish to travel, USCIS may also allow you to travel overseas using an advanced parole document.  And while I have been saying that if your case is straightforward you can apply for DACA without an attorney.  My advice for DREAM Act applicants would be to definitely have a competent lawyer because you want to get it absolutely right.  The legal costs with a qualified immigration attorney can easily run a few thousand dollars.  If you have to pay the penalty, the whole process could cost between $5,000 and $10,000.  If you have not paid your taxes to the IRS and State, you can estimate the back taxes and interest based on what you have earned.

How to prepare for immigration reform?  Like all those unfortunate people who are not able to take advantage of DACA because of their inability to pay, you are better off planning and saving now.  Indeed, many financial institutions and law firms may offer financing but the interest rates are typically very high, loans are not always available, many good law firms prefer only cash paying clients, and finding loans can slow down your application.  If you need to borrow from friends and family, you need to start talking to them right now, but in any case, think about setting aside money for the application.

Documents needed for applying:  Those of you who have applied for DACA already know how important it is to have your immigration file completed.  I was surprised that so many DREAMers did not even have valid passports, something that each one of you must always have.  Apparently, many DREAMers have been stuck waiting for their passports or other documents to arrive.  Don't let that happen for DREAM Act.  Start preparing by having your valid passport, birth certificate, documents supporting your education and residences in the United States, documents related to marriage if you are married, etc.  If you have been involved in criminal activities and court proceedings, make sure that you have every single piece of legal document.

What not to do if you are a DREAMer?

While the following tips apply to all illegal immigrants in the United States, I will focus more specifically on the so-called DREAMers.  The idea to write these tips came when I heard about an idiot from Peru called Luis Abrahan Sanchez Zavaleta.  Briefly, this is what happened.  This young man not only was in the country illegally, he also broke the law by committing a sex crime.  Despite all this, he had the nerve to lie about his immigration status and criminal record to a United States senator and Rutgers University in order to work as an unpaid intern in the US Senate office.  It doesn't end here.  The guy had the audacity to apply for DACA, and thus, provide a complete history of his life and all the evidence USCIS and ICE needed to find and deport him.  Obviously, at some point he would have been caught, and of course, never granted any immigration benefits, but his stupid actions have brought a bad name to DREAMers, pro-illegal immigration Senator Robert Menendez, and put a spotlight on crimes committed by undocumented immigrants.

So here a few things to remember if you are in the United States illegally:


  1. If you entered the country illegally (e.g. by crossing the border without proper entry papers or falsified documents likes passport, visa, green card, etc.) or are out of status in the country, you have already committed a serious crime that will haunt you the rest of your life (even if you are legalized).  Don't make it worse by committing another crime.
  2. If you have committed a deportable crime while illegally in the country, you might want to consider other options like buying a one-way ticket to your native country, and leave, or trying to immigrate to another country that does not share crime data with the United States.  Yes, you maybe able to live for years or even decades without being caught because of the lack of resources to catch criminals, but if you want to live your life and get a fresh start, returning to your country is your best option.  You will not be able to legalize your status, and if caught, you will end up in jail and eventually deported.
  3. I know a lot of illegal immigrants who despite making life-threatening journeys across the border to come here, once they are here, they take their lives for granted.  They break other laws by driving while drunk or shoplifting or making too much noise in their homes.  Many lie their way to get social welfare benefits.  The worst of all is the crime of not paying taxes.  Many of them steal identities or use fake Social Security numbers not just to work (which is somewhat understandable) but to push the limits by getting credit cards or taking out car/home loans.  Working without authorization is a crime serious enough, don't complicate your life by breaking the laws even more.  I can understand why one gets bolder as one is not caught after committing a crime and keeps committing even more.
  4. Needless to say that working without proper documents is a serious crime but lying is the most serious.  So if you lie about your status (failing to disclose a piece of information is a lie as well) or give a misleading answer can complicate your case as well.  And while you could get away with doing so with a private employer, do not even try to lie your way to a job (whether a job is unpaid matters little) legally meant for citizens or legal immigrants.  You need to be out of your mind to put yourself in the spotlight by lying your way to work for the Federal Government.
  5. Many illegal immigrants are either too poor or naive or plain stupid, but don't try to act too smart.  There is a reason we have attorneys (I have noticed that some lawyers can be expensive or not pay full attention to your case or even mess up your case but they are professionals, the legal system is complicated and full of traps not meant to be navigated by amateurs).  Indeed, I have said earlier that you do not need an attorney to apply for DACA or for any other immigration benefit from DACA as long as you have a straightforward case.  If you have something that seems out of the ordinary, you must seek good legal help.  There are reports that hundreds of DREAMers who applied for DACA have been deported after they were found to be ineligible but made the task of ICE easy by providing excellent information on their whereabouts and identities.

3 out of 4 Americans support DREAM Act

With the reelection of President Obama and increasing realization by GOP that some immigration relief must be provided to millions of illegal immigrants, a new survey of Americans by Politico has some great news for DREAMers.  74% of Americans support giving DREAMers the right to stay in the United States of American permanently if they complete college degree or serve in the US Armed Forces.

Of course, this survey did not specifically discuss a pathway to citizenship and also left out issues like what happens to those DREAMers who only have high school diplomas or even worse, as we are finding out from the small number of DACA applications that a large number did not even graduate from high school.  Maybe they will be able to take advantage of comprehensive immigration reform that might be more inclusive.

Why are DREAMers not applying for DACA?

When President Barack Obama announced the DACA program, I believed the huge numbers trumpeted by immigrant advocacy groups (all the way up to 1.7 millions).  While there were valid concerns if Mitt Romney were to be elected president, when Obama was reelected, I expected that there would be a surge in applications.  To my surprise, the data shows that DREAMers are simply not applying.  I have already argued that it is much better to apply for DACA even if you are very optimistic that DREAM and/or Achieve Act will pass.  The simple rationale is that if you are deported before any amnesty is provided to DREAMers, it does not matter what happens.  Having a DACA approval will not only allow you to stay in the country, work legally, but also allow you to avail of any immigration reforms that might pass during the coming years.

Well, this mystery seems to have been solved by Weber State University.  According to a survey conducted by them, the undocumented immigrants who seem to be applying are teenagers (ages 16 to 19).  The older applicants are simply not applying.  There are some in their early 20s but very few older than 25, even though, you can be up to 31 years old.

Why are older illegal immigrants not applying for DACA?  As evidenced by huge number of illegal immigrants who have been using fake Social Security numbers to work, apparently the older you are, the greater is the probability that you have broken US laws.  While the USCIS is ignoring at this time if you have assumed another person's identity, it does not mean that you cannot be prosecuted for Social Security number fraud or identity theft at a later time or simply denied any real immigration benefit in the future.  By applying for DACA, many illegal immigrants will have to voluntarily confess to breaking the law.  For instance, all those applicants who have provided W-2 forms or letters from their employers as evidence that they have been in the country have set up traps for themselves by admitting to several crimes.

The Weber research also found that while teenagers who are applying are in high-school (a valid eligibility) many older DREAMers who dropped out of high school are not eligible.  And no surprise here but they found that the longer you have lived, higher the possibility that you have broken the law.  It maybe added that if you have a criminal background and you apply for DACA, you just make the task of ICE easy for deporting you.

So how many DREAMers will benefit from DREAM Act It is something that we will find out only when the law is passed.  If the law has minimum education requirements (criminal record will definitely be a factor and felonies are going to be a problem, but how many misdemeanors are allowed may make a difference) we will see a lot of DREAMers excluded.  It will also be interesting to see how Congress will treat unauthorized employment and if Congress decides to follow American laws literally, the number of eligible immigrants will be a lot lower than many immigrant rights groups currently estimate.

Next steps for DREAMers after getting valid Social Security number

Those DREAMers who get approved for DACA, and if they have applied for a work permit using a Form I-765 and I-765WS (not all DREAMers need to or will apply for or get approved for an EAD card), will be eligible for a valid for employment Social Security number from the Social Security Administration, because under US laws, anyone who works at any job must have a valid SSN that will be used by both the employer and the employee to report the income to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and to file tax documents.

How to apply for a SS#?  The process is relatively simple.  You will complete a simple form SS-5 and along with the required documentation (for DREAMers it is best to have a valid passport, original letters of approval for I-821D and employment authorization card) show up at the nearest Social Security office.  Like any government office, prepare to wait so bring a book to read but overall the process is fairly streamlined.  Once the officer has checked your papers and given them back to you, go home and wait for a few weeks.  Your card will arrive in the mail, sign it immediately, and store it in a safe place.  It is also good to make a photo copy and store it in another place so that in case the card is lost, having a copy will be helpful.  There is no need to carry the SS card with you at all times, though, DREAMers may want to carry a copy of their EAD cards with them at all times (the original card must always be stored in a safe place).

Immediate steps to be taken after getting a valid for employment SS#: 


  1. If you have an ITIN change it to your Social Security number.  It is not only illegal to have both numbers, it is also stupid.  Having your new SSN as the only number for tax purposes and in general to live your life in the United States, you will consolidate all your tax history and that will be good in the long run.
  2. If you live in a state that issues a drivers license, go get one.
  3. If you have been working illegally with a fake/stolen/madeup number, quit your current job and start a new job with your valid SSN.  While it is against the law, some employers may let your change your number.  Explore this option with caution, because if it does not go smoothly, you will end up in a lot of trouble and would have regretted not taking a new job instead.
  4. Each year file your local, state and Federal tax returns because it is the law.  You do not always have to work in order to owe taxes.  If you have interest income from your bank accounts or collect rent from a rental property that you own or receive a gift, you may need to file a tax return.  Consult a competent accountant to do your taxes accurately and honestly.  You might even get a refund.  Immigrants who file their taxes in accordance with the law, have an easier time getting their permanent residency and getting naturalized.  Tax evasion is a serious crime and if the government cannot find you otherwise, you maybe arrested when you try to enter the United States or denied entry into the country.
  5. If you have bank accounts opened with ITIN, make sure that you provide the new number to the financial institutions.  You can do the same with the three credit bureaus.
  6. Some DREAMers have bank accounts and even credit cards with fake/stolen/madeup numbers, and chances are that you will not be able to update your number with them, because approaching them with this request may amount to admitting to fraud, and unlike the government that does not prosecute lawbreakers all the time, the corporations may put you in a lot of trouble.  It is, therefore, best to close your accounts, and open new ones.
  7. Opening a new credit account of any type (for example, credit cards, car loans, home mortgage loans, etc.) typically requires having a credit history.  You will have to build this gradually.  So if you have a checking and/or savings account, ask your bank for a prepaid, secured credit card.  If your bank does not offer one, do a Google search instead, and find a bank that you like.  After you make a deposit with them, your secured card will come in the mail.  In most cases, it has a limit equal to the amount you deposit but some institutions may give a premium of 10 or 20% (these cards can be used as a regular credit card and the merchant will not notice anything different, but make sure that you watch your balance carefully so that you do not face the embarrassment of a transaction being denied).  Use this card responsibly and it will only be a matter of time that you will start getting pre-approved credit card offers in the mail.  You can then apply for one and if you use it responsibly for a few years, you will start to improve your credit score and that would enable to apply for loans.
What else should I know about my Social Security card?

Your card and number is valid for life, even if you leave the United States.  Except for extremely rare circumstances, this number will never change.  Needless to say that if your card clearly says that it is not valid for employment, it is illegal to use it for working and there are serious consequences for breaking this law.  As a DACA approved DREAMer, your card will be valid for employment only by DHS authorization.  In other words, when your DACA status expires, it is your responsibility to renew it.  That is true for all other legalization paths you may pursue.  Your card is legal for working only if you have status in the United States.  If you want to follow the law, you will need to stop working the day you are out of status.  If you regain legal immigration status again, your SS card will become valid, and will not require to be changed until the day you become a green card holder.  At that point, you can apply for a new Social Security card that will not have any wording related to working with DHS authorization because all permanent residents are authorized to work.  Another instance that you will need to change your card is if you legally change your name, for instance, after marriage.

Submit new I-9 after using fake Social Security number

The USCIS has provided a fact sheet for employers to deal with DACA approved immigrants and the guide has instructions on how they are now allowed to work legally in the United States for the duration of the validity of their EAD card.  On page 2 of the pamphlet, there is a section which provides instructions for employers on occasions when they must ask an existing employees to complete a new Form I-9.  It clearly says that if a SSN has changed and a SS# was provided on the previous I-9 completed at the time the employee started to work.

United States laws do not provide to update fake Social Security numbers with actual numbers:  Some DREAMers have been interpreting this guidance as if this is a directive from the USCIS to the employers that they should simply let those with fake, made-up, stolen Social Security numbers to simply change it to their valid numbers.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  That category is only for those extremely rare instances in which the SSA issues new numbers to victims of identity theft or domestic abuse.  Typically, what will happen is that once you submit a completed new I9 form, if the employer participates in the E-Verify program, it will be revealed that you lied on your initial I-9, and that is a perjury (when you provided a false SSN and checked either the "A Citizen of the United States" box or any other box and provided forged green card and/or other documentation), punishable with imprisonment and fines.  If the employer does not participate in the EVerify program, they may still cross-check your previous I-9 form and will be within their legal rights to question you and ask for further documentation and/or to report you to law enforcement and/or to fire you.

Will some employers turn their eyes the other way and let it all go through?  Absolutely.  Many employers who have knowingly hired unauthorized workers or simply failed to put the systems in place to verify the documents presented to them may do the same this time as well, but it is worth knowing for the DREAMers that the process of changing their Social Security numbers at their current workplace is not straightforward and has many legal implications, particularly in form of creating a paper trail of lying on I-9 forms and that can impact future immigration benefits.

Why is my DACA approval taking so long?

Miranda writes, "I sent my application for DACA about three months ago and had my biometrics about two months ago.  I meet all the requirements! So far, though, no answer.  The thing that makes me sad is seeing other people getting their EAD and Social Security cards.  I know I should be happy for them.  They deserve it as much as I do!  I have been a good student and was hoping to go to college as soon as I got approved.  I want this so bad and I cry just thinking about not being able to go to college and going back to Mexico.  I don't want to go back; this is my country, I love the USA as much as a citizen would! Please tell me how to find the courage to keep waiting ! How much longer do I have to wait?"

Why some immigration applications get delayed at the USCIS?     I am sorry to hear what you are going through but let me put some facts out for you so that you can better understand your situation.  Here are a few scenarios for DREAMers whose applications are taking too long to be processed by USCIS:


  1. People who filed their application from states which have significant illegal immigrant populations, for instance, California, Texas, Arizona, etc.  are being sent to service centers that are swamped.
  2. Your case was not straightforward.  The way the process works in the USCIS is that an officer will conduct an initial review of your application package and if the application is filed correctly, if all the evidence is as needed, if you meet all the eligibility requirements with no gray areas, and if all comes clear in your background search, you will be approved almost immediately (that is why thousands of DREAMers were pleasantly surprised to find that they sailed through the process).  On the other hand, if there is even a small problem in any of the things above, you can imagine what happens in that situation: it gets routed to another officer or to a superior or they request more information from you or assign another experienced officer to investigate further.  That can delay things a lot depending on each case.
  3. Either you have a problem with your criminal history or you are one of those unfortunate individuals whose name and other personal information seems to match a criminal (which might trigger an extended security review).  In that case, the agency has to conduct additional research before approval.  That process can be awfully slow if paperwork is sent out to local law enforcement departments.
  4. You failed to disclose something that the USCIS knows about.  For instance, many DREAMers were not even aware that they had deportation orders issued against them because their family members never bothered to tell them or they never understood what was happening to their cases (non-English speakers often do not fully understand the process of immigration cases and often rely on incompetent attorneys or may not even have a counsel).  So while you might think that your case is simple, the USCIS may not think so.
  5. You deliberately lied on your application assuming that USCIS may never find out about it or you did not realize how serious it was or you simply forgot about it (if you were fingerprinted at a police station for a fight between students at school or for shoplifting and then let go because you were a teenager you may not think that it is a big deal but it will completely mess up your application).
I don't know what applies to you but please be patient.  If your application has not been rejected nor have you received a request for evidence (RFE) you just will need to wait.  In the meantime, you can also call the USCIS to ask a customer service agent about the status of your application and they can give you more information than what you will be able to get by just checking your application status online.  Remember that typical immigration processes are painfully slow (even for legal immigrants) and some people wait for years for their cases to be resolved.  DACA is moving forward pretty fast actually.

How to use my new SSN if my W-2 has a fake number

Alfredo writes, "I have been approved for DACA for and have already received my work permit and SSN card.  I have filed my taxes for the last 3 years with an ITIN but now that I have a SSN I would like to know if now I can use my SSN to file my taxes instead of using the ITIN number.  I would like to add that my W-2 form will have my fake SSN."

Now that you have a valid SSN, you need to transition from your ITIN.  Remember it is illegal to use any number other than your valid SS# after you have it and you are obligated to file your taxes only under your valid number.  You will also have your taxes consolidated all under one number with the IRS after you do the paperwork for transition.  Finally, you have to stop using your fake SSN immediately (which, by the way is a serious crime in and by itself, but even more serious after you have a valid Social Security number).  I have some instructions here on how to move away from your fraudulent Social and embrace your legal number. If you cannot, you need to quit your job and find a new one where you can work legally with your new number (though you will still have a very messy tax situation with regards to filing income taxes for the period you used a fake number but have since been assigned an authentic number and I encourage you to discuss this with an excellent tax attorney and accountant).  As it is, the histories of DREAMers are muddled and at this point you want to have as clean a record as possible in order to prepare for passage of DREAM or ACHIEVE Act or whatever other immigration reform passes under President Obama.