Foreign Nationals Don’t Need a SSN to Be Onboarded

Onboarding Foreign Nationals: Employees Don’t Need a SSN to Start

Foreign nationals arriving in the United States to work are often unable to get their Social Security number (SSN) until a few days or weeks after they begin working for various reasons.

As of this writing, along with countless other businesses across the country, the Social Security offices are closed. So no one can get a new SSN.

What should you do if you need to onboard a foreign national worker without a SSN?

Don’t Delay Their Start Date

The social security administration allows for the onboarding of an employee without a SSN, as long as that person is otherwise authorized to work. 

Guide Them to Apply for a SSN

Advise the new worker that they need to apply for a SSN and card as soon as possible and to provide you with this information once they receive it.

The foreign national may know nothing about obtaining a SSN and card because it’s somewhat unique to the United States. So, the employee may need guidance.

There are clear, step-by-step instructions here.

Pay Your New Employee

Employers do not need a SSN to begin paying a foreign national employee. Most payroll and employee benefit plan providers have processes for how to do this. The best way to learn what you need to do is to contact your specific payroll provider because processes vary.

Where their lack of a SSN might impact you is if the worker still doesn’t have a SSN  by the time you have to file wage reports (W-2s) to Social Security. There are a couple of possibilities here.

If the worker is filing by paper and they applied but did not get their number yet:

  • In Box A, enter “Applied For” 

If the worker is filing electronically and they applied but did not get their number yet:

  • In the SSN field, enter all zeros


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