How to get a US Social Security Number in Canada – A step by step guide

 

Why do some Canadians wish to have a U.S. Social Security number?

Many Canadians are in the process of coming into U.S. tax compliance. One might ask:

Why would a Canadian citizen residing in Canada wish to come into U.S tax compliance?

There are two reasons why Canadian citizen/residents file U.S. tax returns:

1. They have learned that they are U.S. citizens or learned about U.S. “citizenship taxation” (perhaps encouraged by a FATCA letter or their local CPA) and they wish to file U.S. taxes; and/or

2. They have learned that they are U.S. citizens and wish to come into U.S tax compliance to “renounce U.S. citizenship” and avoid “covered expatriate” status (particularly important if they wish to take advantage of the “dual citizenship” exemption to the S. 877A Exit Tax).

Regardless of the motivation, one must do considerable work for the privilege of filing U.S. taxes.

Does having a U.S. Social Security number make me a U.S. citizen?

No. A U.S. Social Security Number is a TIN (“Tax Identification Number”). All U.S. citizens are required to use a Social Security Number as their TIN. But, some non-citizens (example Green Card Holders) will also have a Social Security number as their TIN.

To put it another way:

All U.S. citizens are required to have a Social Security number as their TIN.

Some non-U.S. citizens use a Social Security Number as their TIN.

What kind of non-citizens would use a Social Security Number as their TIN?

The answer is:

Generally, only noncitizens authorized to work in the United States by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can get a Social Security number. Social Security numbers are used to report a person’s wages to the government and to determine a person’s eligibility for Social Security benefits. You need a Social Security number to work, collect Social Security benefits, and receive some other government services.

See a more complete answer in this publication from Social Security here:

EN-05-10096

About the ITIN: The TIN for those who are NOT eligible for a Social Security number …

The IRS in providing information about the ITIN confirms that:

IRS issues ITINs to foreign nationals and others who have federal tax reporting or filing requirements and do not qualify for SSNs. A non-resident alien individual not eligible for a SSN who is required to file a U.S. tax return only to claim a refund of tax under the provisions of a U.S. tax treaty needs an ITIN.

Other examples of individuals who need ITINs include:
• A nonresident alien required to file a U.S. tax return
• A U.S. resident alien (based on days present in the United States) filing a U.S. tax return
• A dependent or spouse of a U.S. citizen/resident alien
• A dependent or spouse of a nonresident alien visa holder

But, back to the Social Security number …

Where can a Canadian get a U.S. Social Security number? What is the fastest way?

Until September 29, 2017 Canadians desiring a U.S. Social Security number could apply from “inside Canada” (at a U.S. consulate). It is no longer possible to obtain Social Security services from a U.S. Consulate or the U.S. Embassy in Canada. Americans abroad are now required to apply for a U.S. Social Security number from “outside Canada” (by going to the USA).

The fastest way for a Canadian to get a U.S. Social Security number is going to the USA!

Precise directions for how Canadians can get a U.S. Social Security number …

No longer possible to apply for a Social Security number from inside Canada at a U.S. Consulate

From the U.S. Embassy site we learn that:

Information on U.S. Social Security enrollment and benefits can be found at the website of the Social Security Administration.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) has consolidated its overseas operations and will no longer be offering social security assistance through the United States Embassy or Consulates in Canada. Individuals residing in Canada who require social security services or have questions about SSA benefits must contact their nearest SSA field office in the United States.

The United States Embassy and Consulates across Canada can no longer accept telephone calls, emails, or walk-in consultations regarding Social Security issues.

For questions regarding your application or your benefits, residents in Canada can find their designated field office on the SSA website for Canada. SSA may require you to appear in person to submit your SSA application.

For general information on SSA services for people living outside the United States, please visit https://www.ssa.gov/foreign/
If you are already receiving SSA benefits payments, there will be no change in the method of distribution of those payments.

You must apply for a Social Security number Outside Canada: Applying for a Social Security number in the USA at a Social Security office

What follows is a description of the process (reproduced with the kind permission of the author)

John

I am sharing my experience obtaining my Social Security Number (SSN) at the Niagara Falls office.

1. The office is located at 6540 Niagara Falls, New York.. It is less than a 15 minute drive from the Niagara Falls U.S. border crossing.

2. A scheduled appointment is NOT required to apply. Hours of operation are: Monday to Friday 9 am to 4 pm and Wednesday 9 am to 12 pm. It took less than a half hour wait time and 20 minutes to speak to an administrative officer.

3. The SSN application, instructions and specifics on acceptable ID are available online. Americans abroad also have helpful info online

https://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/

https://www.americansabroad.org/obtaining-reclaiming-your-social-security-number-ssn/

4. Be prepared to provide a name and phone number of family or a friend who will be called to confirm how long you’ve lived outside the US and your address. In my case, this call was made within 24 hours of my visit to the NF office.

5. My application and documents were reviewed and copied and I was asked where I was born, how long did I live in the US, how long in Canada, had I ever lived, worked, voted, attended school or received any social or health benefits from the US. I was given a Reference # in the event I needed to check the status of my application.

7. The average wait time is between two to four weeks to receive the SSN in the mail. Be aware that it can take longer than this. In my case, the SSN arrrived 5 weeks later.

8. To try to expedite the process, I called the local NF Social Security phone number 1-877-480-4992 b every other day to ask for an update. As soon as it was verified that my application had been processed and they could see my SSN online, I drove to their office to ask an administrator to look up my reference # write down my SSN. They will agree to do this if you show up in person with your passport, ID and original leter with your reference#.. For anyone with an urgent timeline to file and renounce, this should help prevent an additional 5 to 10 day delay waiting for the mail.

Appreciating that others may have a different experience than my own, I hope that this may be still be helpful.

John Richardson