What is a Social Security card?


Quick Answer

A Social Security card is a small piece of paper that lists a person's legal name along with her nine-digit Social Security number. The Social Security number is not only necessary for linking a person's identity with the Social Security Administration, it also serves as one of the most vital and definite forms of identification for citizens of the United States.

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Full Answer

All Americans require a Social Security number for employment, because all employers must deduct a portion of an employee's earnings to pay for the federal program. Many people living in the United States are not U.S. citizens, but they still require Social Security cards for taxation and identification purposes.

The Social Security administration issues three different types of Social Security cards based on a person's nationality and whether she may work in the U.S. The first type of Social Security card is the type issued to all U.S. citizens after birth. This card authorizes the citizen to work for employers in the U.S. without restrictions.

Temporary residents, including resident aliens, migrant workers and international students, receive the second type of Social Security card. This card authorizes a person to work in the United States, but only with official approval from the Department of Homeland Security.

The Social Security Administration issues the third, rarest type of Social Security card only in certain circumstances. This type of card gives the person access to certain federal benefits that require a Social Security number, but it prohibits them from working.

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