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Know Your Non-Immigrant Status Before Applying for an SSN

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Despite what you may have heard, some non-citizens working in the U.S. still have tax obligations. In order to meet those obligations, a social security number (SSN) is required. Obtaining one can be complicated if the worker in question holds a non-immigrant visa status.

Immigration law classifies non-immigrant workers according to various occupational categories. Non-citizen social security applicants need to be aware of these classifications in order to complete their paperwork correctly. Getting any portion of the application wrong – including worker classification – only delays the approval process. Furthermore, delays create additional tax issues that can ultimately turn into a nightmare.

More Than 20 Classifications

The importance of knowing your non-immigrant status is critically important when you understand that there are more than twenty classifications. Perhaps the most well-known classification is H-1B. This applies to workers in specialty occupations who are sponsored by their employers. Those in H-1B status will need to have their job classified according to the appropriate government occupation.

Here are some of the other common classifications:

  • L-1 – Intracompany transfer employees
  • TN – Trade NAFTA workers from Canada and Mexico
  • H-2B – Temporary non-agricultural workers
  • O-1 – Foreign nationals considered to have “extraordinary ability”
  • E-1/E-2 – International investors

It is important to know that only a few non-immigrant classifications allow workers to live and work in the U.S. without the previous involvement of the employer. In most cases, employers need to at least file a petition to obtain USCIS authorization before employment can officially begin.

Starting employment before meeting all your legal obligations could result in a loss of your status to legally live and work here. The employer sponsoring your employment can guide you through the process of obtaining the correct permission, which is typically done through a law firm that supports their employees’ immigration needs. But if not, do not take any chances. Don’t just assume you can start working on the day you arrive on American soil.

Filing for an SSN

Non-immigrant workers with tax obligations can file for an SSN with the Social Security Administration. Details can be found on their website. Workers can do this independently or with the help of their employer sponsors. At any rate, obtaining an SSN obliges both workers and their employers to file the appropriate paperwork during the annual tax season.

For help filing taxes, you should seek the assistance of a tax professional. You will need to know your non-immigrant status in order to give the tax preparer the correct information. It is never advisable for you to attempt to do your own taxes. There are some mistakes that could impact your future U.S. immigration process.

If you are an employer looking to hire temporary non-immigrant workers, it is imperative that you know and understand how tax laws apply to your situation. With the current political environment such as it is, your company cannot afford to run afoul of tax laws. Know what your obligations are and make sure that you meet them.

Get the Help of an Attorney

U.S. immigration law is incredibly complex. Even something as simple as applying for a social security number can create headaches for both workers and their sponsor employers. We always recommend utilizing the services of an experienced immigration attorney regardless of how minor a task non-immigrant workers are trying to accomplish.

Immigration attorneys specialize in immigration law. Immigration is our specialty here at Graham Adair. We excel in all phases of the immigration process, including non-immigrant classification and obtaining worker visas. If you need assistance obtaining permission to live and work in the United States, feel free to contact us to arrange for a consultation.

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