October 2, 2017 USCIS released an updated I-765 Application for Employment Authorization (EAD) featuring a new section which allows foreign nationals already in the U.S., in certain classifications, to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) alongside the Employment Authorization Document. This is made possible by a new information-sharing initiative between U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and the Social Security Administration.
To work lawfully in the U.S., many foreign nationals in immigrant categories (asylees and refugees; adjustment of status applicants) and nonimmigrant classifications (F-1 or M-1 student, E-2 spouse, L-2 spouse) must first obtain an Employment Authorization Document from the USCIS by submitting the I-765 with supporting documentation. Such classifications also require the EAD applicant to obtain a SSN separately by filing an application with a local Social Security Administration office, typically after the EAD is approved by USCIS and received by the foreign worker.
In an effort to streamline this process, the I-765 now includes new questions in Section 10 – 13 which allows the applicant to indicate whether or not he or she would like an SSN to be issued, whether the sharing of information between the agencies is consented to, and if so, the names of the applicant’s father and mother. No additional processing fee is incurred in the selection of this service (the filing fee is still $410).
According to USCIS, applicants who select this simultaneous issuance will first receive the approved EAD from USCIS, followed by the Social Security card from SSA within the following two weeks.
There is an inter-agency discontinuity in policy when it comes to the issuance of SSNs for E-2 spouses, however. SSA has determined that E-2 spouses have employment authorization “incident to status” and may apply for an SSN prior to actually receiving an EAD from USCIS. Importantly, receiving a SSN does not obviate the need to file for and receive an EAD from USCIS prior to lawful employment in the U.S. – the E-2 spouse is simply permitted to obtain a SSN before securing work authorization. This provides some benefits, such as allowing the E-2 spouse to set up bank accounts. The greater benefit is in time saved, something that is hopefully achieved through the use of this new I-765.
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