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How do I get a social security number if I live outside the US?

A story before I begin:

My son was born in Canada as a US citizen, just like me. As I needed to get proof of his US citizenship by birth, as well as his US social security number, I strolled down to the US consulate in Calgary to get my sons' US Consular Report of Birth Abroad (CRBA), and apply for his US Social Security Number (SSN).

After going through the process of multiple security checks, and long lines we made it to the consulate area. My wife, son and I went through working with the consular agent. The agent indicated that all applications for social security numbers abroad go through the central processing center in Maryland, and that it could take up to 18 months to receive a number.

As the agent continued to process our application for our sons' US birth certificate, he found out that I used to be a federal agent (as a part of the application asks if you were ever employed by the US government). He then completely changed his demeanor from mildly annoyed/agitated, to collegial.

He further explained to me that there was a way around the long wait for SSN's. Apply for the social security number at any Social Security office in the US. If you apply in the US, the processing and delivery time is around 2 weeks. We received our sons' in one week. Although I was glad for the advice, I was frustrated, worrying that the agent would not be as forthcoming to other US citizens.

Here are the my suggestions for getting a US SSN for either yourself, or your child.

  1. Use the US Consulate to ONLY apply for a CRBA.

  2. Go to a Social Security Office in the US and apply for a SSN, using the CRBA as proof of US citizenship, and a foreign passport/drivers license as photo ID.

If you can travel to the US, I would suggest doing so. If you can't, use the consulate.

The link for the form you need to file out to apply for a US Social Security number is below:

About the author: Ian Davis is Canada’s only former IRS auditor; and Founder and President of US Tax Resources Inc. A Canadian firm whose mission is to provide Americans, and persons with US interests access to simple, affordable tax preparation and advisory services.

Ian is a dual US/Canadian citizen living with his family in Canada.

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