How To Get A U.S. Social Security Number In Canada – Tax Compliance

John Richardson

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?

Canadians desiring a U.S. Social Security number can apply from “inside Canada” (at a U.S. consulate) or 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.

Option 1

Inside Canada: Applying 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. U.S. citizens in Canada may apply for a Social Security number and card at the U.S. Embassy or a U.S. consulate by appointment, or in person at a Social Security office in the United States.

You may submit an application for a Social Security card when you apply for a U.S. passport, a Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA) for a minor (under the age of 18 years), or by making an appointment for a notarial service. The Social Security application form (SS-5) is available at the Consulate or at the Social Security website.

Ahead of your appointment, please bring original: (1) proof of birth, such as a U.S. or foreign birth certificate; (2) proof of U.S. citizenship, such as a U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport or Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA), or Certificate of Naturalization or Citizenship; (3) proof of identity, such as an original U.S. or Canadian passport, and any other signed U.S. government-issued photo ID, such as a U.S. driver’s license; and, if applicable (4) proof of identity of the parent signing the application for minors under 12 years old, such as an original U.S. or Canadian passport. Please note the Social Security Administration does not accept the following IDs: Canadian driver’s licenses, Canadian provincial health cards, NEXUS cards, and U.S. Emergency Photo Digitized Passports as proof of identity.

Option 2

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)

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

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.

6. 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.

7. 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.

For those wishing more information …

Here is nice summary by U.S. based immigration lawyer Joseph Grasmick.

The Reality of U.S. Citizenship Abroad

My name is John Richardson. I am a Toronto based lawyer – member of the Bar of Ontario. This means that, any counselling session you have with me will be governed by the rules of “lawyer client” privilege. This means that:

“What’s said in my office, stays in my office.”

The U.S. imposes complex rules and life restrictions on its citizens wherever they live. These restrictions are becoming more and more difficult for those U.S. citizens who choose to live outside the United States.

FATCA is the mechanism to enforce those “complex rules and life restrictions” on Americans abroad. As a result, many U.S. citizens abroad are renouncing their U.S. citizenship. Although this is very sad. It is also the reality.


Subscribe to TaxConnections Blog

Enter your email address to subscribe to this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

1 comment on “How To Get A U.S. Social Security Number In Canada – Tax Compliance”

  • 1) there is also a mailing option to apply albeit that one must include original documents such as passport 2) while the Toronto consulate readily processes SSN applications for children under age 2 at time of birth certificate abroad processing, when a parent tries to do so for an older child, say, age 12 they do their darndest to avoid accepting the SSN application and definitely give off the strong impression that they don’t do it. It seems like it is a burden their office doesn’t desire so much so that the language they use is designed to ward off SSN requests of that nature and only if the USC firmly asserts their rights do they acquiesce.

Comments are closed.