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What is DHS Authorization?

A social security number is a nine-digit identification code the U.S. government uses to track earnings and number of years worked. In order to be hired by a U.S. company, you need to be able to provide this social security number (SSN). This number can be found on a social security card—which is issued to U.S. citizens, as well as residents and noncitizens who are eligible to work in the U.S.

However, there are different social security cards issued depending on an individual’s situation. One of these social security cards comes with a restriction that says: “Valid for work only with DHS authorization.”

If your card has this restriction, you may be wondering what this entails. Below, we’ll discuss:

  • What is DHS Authorization
  • Why you need DHS Authorization to Work
  • Whether DHS Social Security Cards Expire
  • How to Promptly Apply for a Social Security Card

DHS Authorization: A Quick Primer

First things first, DHS stands for Department of Homeland Security. DHS authorization then means that the DHS is giving noncitizens the ability to work in the U.S. This is one of three kinds of social security cards that are available:

  • Unrestricted social security card – This type of social security card is issued to U.S. citizens and those with lawful permanent resident status. Should you temporarily be in the U.S. working with a DHS authorized social security card, you can “upgrade” to the unrestricted social security card once you become a lawful permanent resident.
  • DHS authorized social security card – If you’re unsure how to get work authorization in the U.S., this type of social security card allows noncitizens to apply for work in the U.S. Without this card, lawfully admitted noncitizens can still access many basic services. This includes opening a bank account, registering for school, getting private health insurance, etc.
  • Social security card without DHS authorization – This last type of social security card is rarer. These cards are issued when a lawfully admitted noncitizen needs an SSN to receive a benefit or service as permitted by federal law. Should the individual not be authorized to work, their passport will have the restriction: “Not valid for employment.

Why You Need DHS Authorization to Work

Most countries—not just the U.S.—prevent noncitizens from gaining employment without authorization. Acquiring social security for work only protects both sides of the labor force.

Noncitizens who don’t have the requisite documents to work legally are often subject to harsh labor conditions and unfair treatment by employers. Additionally, this lowers the labor cost for all employees, including citizens.

This is the importance of noncitizen labor laws and granting DHS authorized social security cards. With the ability to grant work permission and track who is working, government agencies can better track the conditions of noncitizen workers.

What You Need Apart From DHS Authorized Social Security Card to Work

It’s important to note, however, that a social security card with DHS authorization is not the only document you need to work. In fact, it can’t be used by employers to verify work status. While it allows you to work within the U.S., it does not establish both identity and employment authorization.

Does this seem a little backward? Or at least confusing?

That’s okay. Here’s how employment documents work: The government classifies three different types of acceptable documents for verifying employment authorization and identity. The DHS authorized social security card is classified under “List C,” which are documents that authorize employment, but don’t verify identity.

Thus, if you have a social security card with DHS authorized, you will still need to provide your employer with documents under List A and List B:

List A Documents – Establishes Employment Authorization and Identity

These documents provide employers with all the necessary information they need to hire an employee. All documents must not be expired:

  • U.S. passport
  • U.S. passport card
  • Permanent resident card or Alien registration card (this is what’s colloquially known as a “green card”)
  • Employment authorization document, or EAD
  • An I-551 form
  • Form I-766
  • A foreign passport with I-551 stamp

There are other forms of List A documents, these being the most common. You can find a full list through the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services Handbook.

List B Documents – Establishes Identity Only

Unlike List A documents, List B documents do not authorize you to work and must be paired with a document from either List C or List A to receive lawful employment. These documents also must be active, and can’t be expired:

  • Driver’s license
  • State-issued ID card, or one issued by an outlying possession of the U.S.
    • This must contain name, DOB, gender, height, eye color, address, as well as a photograph that clearly identifies the face.
  • School ID card
    • This card must be current, active, and include a photograph
  • Voter registration card
  • Native American tribal document
  • U.S. military card
  • U.S. military draft record
  • Military dependent’s ID card
  • U.S. Coast Guard Merchant Mariner Card
  • Canadian-issued driver’s license

Should the individual be under the age of 18, these documents can also be substituted with school records, such as report cards, hospital records from clinics, physicians, or nurse practitioners, and daycare records including nursery schools and pre-K.

List C Documents – Establishes Employment Authorization Only

List C documents, such as a DHS authorized social security card, establish work authorization but don’t act as identification. Thus, if you are providing this work authorization document to employers, it must be accompanied by documents listed in List B or List A.

Examples of List C documents include:

  • Social security card
    • Should this social security be restricted by “Not valid for employment,” then this will not act as employment authorization
  • Original birth certificate (or a certified copy)
    • The certified copy must be issued by a local authority—this includes a state, county, or municipal authority
  • Form I-179, Identification Card
  • Form I-197, U.S. Citizen Identification Card
  • Native American tribal document

You can also present a work authorization document from the DHS, should you have one.

Does a Social Security Card With DHS Authorization Expire?

No. Social security cards and social security numbers do not expire.

The informational documents needed for a DHS social security card do, however. To that end, always be sure to have any expiration date firmly in mind to avoid mishaps with passports, work permits, or unauthorized work permits.

Though the cards do not expire, you may find yourself needing to replace, correct, or apply for a new one (should it have been lost or stolen). Additionally, if you are granted citizenship or permanent residence, then you can apply for an unrestricted social security card.

What do all these processes look like?

How to Apply for a Social Security Card With DHS Authorization

The process of applying for a DHS authorized social security card follows the same steps as any other social security card application. Though, you’ll want to take special attention to apply for the correct document. This process can be lengthy with the time it takes to get a response—and if your employer needs this work authorization, then you don’t want to go through multiple rounds of back-and-forth with your local government office.

If you want to ensure you’re applying correctly and go through the process quickly, consider an automated e-record filing assistant, such as the E-Records Tools from NotYourSocialSecurity.

With NYSS, you can skip the long lines at your local social security office—in fact, you don’t even need to leave your house!

How does the application process work?


To begin, you’ll want to ensure you have all the requisite documents. That includes four main categories:

  • Proof of immigration status – To prove immigration status you’ll need to show current documentation. This could include:
    • Form I-551
    • Form I-766
    • Form I-94
  • Proof of employment eligibility – In order to gain a social security card with DHS authorization, you need to be able to prove that you are eligible to work in the first place. This is easy. You just need one of the following documents:
    • Form I-94
    • Admission stamp in an unexpired foreign passport showing work permission
    • Form I-766
    • EAD
    • Work Permit
  • Proof of age – Additionally, you’ll have to prove that you’re of age to work. To do this, all you need is something with evidence, such as:
    • Foreign birth certificate
    • Passport with DOB
    • Document issued by DHS that proves your age
  • Proof of identity – Finally, you’ll need to prove you are who you say you are. This could come in the form of:
    • Form I-551
    • Form I-94
    • Form I-766

You’ll notice that some of these documents act as more than one proof. When setting out on the application process, try to have one of each category so the process is smooth.

Skip the Lines, Skip the Hassle: NYSS

Should you need a social security card replaced, duplicated, or issued brand new, you won’t want to put this off. Yet, unfortunately, social security office locations are only open during business hours. And the lines are reminiscent of the DMV.

This means, not only do you have to take time off work (since they’re not open on weekends), but you need a lot of time. The same applies to the long hold times on the phone.

To avoid taking extra trips back and forth between home and the social security line, just use online E-record tools from NotYourSocialSecurity. It’s safe, secure, and best of all, it’s quick. You’re already online; you know you need a social security card—why not skip the line and the hassle?