Abbie here. Our new au pair just arrived a few weeks ago, so I thought I’d share my experience helping her get her social security number. This is my third time doing this. While it’s definitely easier than doing it with our first au pair, I still forget all the details. This time I prepared a bunch of questions to ask the Social Security person so I could share all the answers with you.
Prioritize your trip to the Social Security office
The social security office isn’t something most of us have to deal with on a regular basis (thank goodness). Even more rarely do we interact with them as a citizen of a foreign country. So helping your au pair get her or his SSN might be a little intimidating.
Prioritize getting your au pair’s social security number as something to do in the first week. It’s very likely that you’ll need it for the bank or credit union, driver’s license, and college registration. And it makes it easier when it comes time to file taxes in April.
Why do some sources suggest waiting?
Some internet advice suggests waiting a few weeks to give the immigration database time to update. However, most au pair agencies have a week of training between when the au pair goes through customs and arrives at the host family’s house. That’s at least 4 to 5 days for all the paperwork to process.
When I asked the social security officer behind the window about the waiting time, she said that it doesn’t apply to J-type visas (which is what the au pairs use). It only applies to other types of applicants. She said it was fine to come into the office as soon as you want.
The other reason you may have to delay making the trip to the Social Security Office is that some agencies mail the DS-2019. Both of my agencies (Au Pair Care and Cultural Care) gave the au pairs their paperwork during training. Maddie’s agency (EurAuPair) mailed it. Check with your au pair and see what paperwork they have (or don’t have). And always feel free to ask your local coordinator or on the My Au Pair and Me Host Family Community on Facebook for help.
What paperwork do Au Pair’s need?
When you go to the Social Security office, your au pair will need:
- The au pair’s passport with the visa inside.
- The passport should also have an I-94 stamp (or a printed I-94), which establishes date of arrival.
- DS-2019 form from your au pair agency.
- Social Security application form SS-5.
- Helpful: Social Security letter from your au pair agency.
- (Honestly, I just have my au pair bring ALL the paperwork. But double check for the passport+visa and DS-2019.)
If you read the SS-5, it says the requirements are to establish age, identity, and citizenship or immigration status. The passport and visa satisfy the first two requirements, and the DS-2019 establishes immigration status. The agency may provide a social security letter as well, which covers the “letter authorizing employment from your sponsor”, which can be used in addition to the DS-2019 to establish immigration status.
Filling out the SS-5
When my au pair and I went to the Social Security office, I forgot about the SS-5. Luckily they had a pile of paper forms, so we filled it out while we waited. You can also download and fill out the PDF from www.ssa.gov.
The SS-5 is pretty self-explanatory, but here are a few things that might help:
- When filling out dates, many other countries put the day first then the month. Make sure the au pair puts the month first. (October 5th, 2019 is 10/05/2019 on the form but in Europe they would write 05/10/2019 or 5 Oct 2019.)
- In section 5, check the box “Legal alien allowed to work” (the J-1 visa allows work in the U.S.)
- You may have to help explain the mother’s maiden name in box 9, and help with the au pair’s phone number and address in boxes 15 and 16.
Here’s what the SS-5 has to say about evidence of immigration status:
You must provide a current unexpired document issued to you by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) showing your immigration status, such as Form I-551, I-94, or I-766. If you are an international student or exchange visitor, you may need to provide additional documents, such as Form I-20, DS-2019, or a letter authorizing employment from your school and employer (F-1) or sponsor (J-1).
Other Au Pair Social Security tips
You can use the Social Security Office Locator, but I used Google Maps. Both methods will also give you the hours that the office is open. Unfortunately, the office is probably only open Monday through Friday. It’s nice if one of the host family parents can go with the au pair, but if necessary the au pair can go alone.
If possible, arrive 15-30 minutes before the office opens to get at the beginning of the line. If not, because life doesn’t always work out like that, bring something to do and expect to wait for 1-2 hours.
One other tip the social security officer gave me was to tape the au pair’s name on the inside of your mailbox. She said she had people returning to the social security office, wondering why their card hadn’t yet been delivered. It turns out the mail carrier hadn’t delivered the envelope to try and keep the social security card safe. Because the mail carrier knew the names on the mail and the au pair’s name was new, it looked like an accidental delivery.
The new card will be delivered in 1-2 weeks. You might need the physical card for the bank or credit union or driver’s license application. But if you just need the number then you can come back to the office in a day or two and they can tell you the number.
Within the first two weeks, you should have a face-to-face sit down with your local coordinator. That’s a good time to ask questions and start building your relationship. It’s always helpful if you and your local coordinator get along.
And always feel free to ask questions in the My Au Pair and Me Host Family Community on Facebook. It’s nice to talk to other host families and know you’re not alone!
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