Citizenship and Alien Status - Social Security Number (SSN) Requirements for Legal Immigrants
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Citizenship and Alien Status - Social Security Number (SSN) Requirements for Legal Immigrants

Revised December 7, 2011

Purpose: The purpose of this section is to explain the special situations that affect immigrants when there are requirements for a Social Security number (SSN) in federal and state benefit programs.

WAC 388-424-0009Citizenship and alien status - Social Security Number (SSN) Requirements

The rules and information below supplement information provided in the SSN Chapter (WAC 388-476-0005 ).

WAC 388-424-0009

WAC 388-424-0009

Effective October 1, 2013

WAC 388-424-0009 Citizenship and alien status - Social Security Number (SSN) Requirements

  1. Any person ho has applied for a Social Security number (SSN) as part of their application for benefits cannot have benefits delayed, denied, or terminated pending the issuance of the SSN by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

  2. The following immigrants are not required to apply for an SSN: 

    1. An alien, regardless of immigration status, who is applying for a program listed in 388-476-0005 (6);

    2. A nonqualified alien; and

    3. Members of a household who are not applying for benefits for themselves.

  3. “Qualified and nonqualified aliens,” as defined in 388-424-0001, who are applying for federal benefits but who are not authorized to work in the U.S., must still apply for a non-work SSN. The Department must assist them in this application without delay.

  4. Any person who is otherwise eligible for benefits may choose not to provide the department with an SSN without jeopardizing the eligibility of others in the household. See 388-450-0140 for how the income of such individuals is treated.

This is a reprint of the official rule as published by the Office of the Code Reviser. If there are previous versions of this rule, they can be found using the Legislative Search page.


  1. Some immigrants who are "qualified" and some who are "non-qualified" (see WAC 388-424-0001 ) are not immediately eligible for employment authorization and therefore may not be issued an SSN:

    1. For example, most political asylum applicants who have a notice that their political asylum application has been received and is being processed must wait six months or longer before they can apply to work in the U.S.

    2. Abused immigrants whose spouse has filled out an I-130 or who have a Notice of Prima Facie eligibility may sometimes have to wait for months or years before they are authorized to work legally.

  2. Some immigrants who do not have work authorization can sometimes get a non-work SSN (see Worker Responsibilities #1 below), but staff in most Social Security Administration (SSA) offices will deny these applications.

  3. Abused immigrants who are filing a petition under the Violence Against Women Act (VAWA) will often receive a Notice of Prima Facie eligibility that does not specifically list their children, even though the children are listed in the original application. Children of abused immigrants are considered eligible for benefits to the same extent as the primary applicant, even though they will often be unable to get a non-work SSN.

  4. SSA staff are not familiar with many immigration documents that are used to show “qualified alien” status (such as the Notice of Prima Facie eligibility under VAWA) and will often not accept these documents as proof of lawful status (see Table 5, page 62 in the NILC Guide in Appendix II for a list of documents). In addition, new SSA requirements that immigrants have evidence of date of birth and identity may prevent many immigrants who have lost their documents (often as a result of fleeing persecution or escaping domestic violence) from getting a non-work number.

  5. Sometimes a client may choose not to provide an SSN (and consequently be excluded from the AU) but the Department inadvertently learns of their SSN (for example, through a pay stub the client provides to verify income). In such cases we continue to honor the individual client’s wish to be excluded from the assistance unit.

    Alternatively, a client may choose not to provide an SSN midway through the process of applying for benefits, or at a recertification, even if they have already provided it. The guiding principle is that we will honor client choice. A client may choose to be excluded from the assistance unit by not providing an SSN at any point.

    However, we may still use a valid SSN in our possession for verifying income and resources. Staff should explain to the immigrant that the SSN will only be used to verify income and resource information and will not be released to federal immigration authorities. Sometimes, a client may not have a valid SSN but is attempting to provide evidence of income or resources to comply with Department requirements – he or she should be allowed to remove the SSN from these documents and should not be discouraged from providing proof of income.


  1. If the client is applying for a federal program which requires an SSN and a current and valid SSN is not available, the Department is responsible for providing the client with assistance in applying for an SSN. (If the client needs financial assistance to complete this process, the Department will assist as well - follow procedures in the Verification Chapter, Worker Responsibilities #9) If the client has already tried to apply at the local Social Security Administration (SSA) office and has been denied, the Department should issue benefits (if the client is otherwise eligible) and take the following steps:

    1. Draft a letter on Department letterhead which specifies the names of all family members applying for benefits and requests that the SSA issue a non-work SSN for each. The letter must explain that the SSNs are being requested so that the clients can participate in the federal programs for which they are eligible. List all programs which apply. See Appendix VI for link to a sample SSN request letter.

    2. If a client is unable to get either a regular or non-work SSN, request an Exception to Rule (ETR) and continue benefits until client is work-authorized. Also ask the client to re-apply for an SSN once she is eligible for and has received an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS.

    3. If the client is able to get a non-work SSN, document the number in ACES and remind the client that this SSN cannot be used to work.

  2. Some persons in a household may not be a part of the assistance unit (AU) which is applying for assistance (for example, undocumented parents of citizen children). In such a case, SSNs for those non-AU members are not a requirement for processing the application of the applying AU.

Modification Date: December 7, 2011