Skip to main content

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.