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The Social Security Administration must insure that Social Security Numbers are not issued to individuals intending to use them for fraudulent purposes.  This is why the Social Security Administration requires individuals applying for Social Security Numbers for the first time do so in person and to present specific documents attesting to their identity and, for many born outside the United States, proof of their lifetime residency outside the United States.

The following is guidance to help those who are managing the process.

First you must decide, based on where you live, how the application process will be managed.  There are two basic options:

1. Make an appointment to visit the Federal Benefits Unit (FBU) office.  Contact the office of the FBU at the closest US Embassy or Consulate in your country of residence.  It is essential that you contact FBU for an appointment as they will not accept walk-ins. They will be able to tell you in advance the exact documentation you need to provide to process the application.  For a complete list of FBU offices see: . This is the best option for expediency as the information given to the FBU is automatically transmitted to the Social Security Administration.

2. Make an appointment to visit to the Embassy/Consulate without an FBU office.
If you are unable to make an appointment at a US Embassy or Consulate with an FBU office, you can still make an appointment to visit your local US Embassy or Consulate to submit an application for your Social Security Number.  Be sure to call or write in advance to make an appointment so that the Embassy/Consulate can tell you in advance what documentation you should bring with you.  This documentation varies from country to country.

When visiting a Consulate or Embassy without an FBU, you will not be speaking directly with a representative of the FBU, but with Embassy/Consulate staff who will review your application/documentation and will then pass your dossier onto the Social Security Administration.  This extra step may result in a delay if the dossier is not complete, or the documentation provided is not acceptable to Social Security.  In this case the dossier will be returned to the Embassy/Consulate for correction,  i.e. you would be contacted to provide more information or told that the documents you provided were not sufficient.

Helpful steps to track your application:

Similar to many government services, the application for a Social Security number takes time to process.  Social Security does its best to expedite the process and understands that many applying from overseas are in immediate need of a number.  

Applications made directly to an office of the FBU have the greatest chance of being treated in an expedited manner as they are screened by the appropriate staff at submission and go directly into the Social Security Administration process for application.  The individuals at an FBU can determine on sight if the applicant has the appropriate documents needed for the application.  It would be rare in this instance for that pplication to be returned for further treatment once submitted.

Applications made at FBU offices:

1. Call/write your local US Embassy or Consulate and make an appointment with the FBU for application for a Social Security number.
2. You will receive a letter confirming you appointment and telling you what documents to bring with you.
3. Keep this letter and bring it with you to the appointment as it will have information as to the person/office dealing with your case.  
4. Submit documents (including application form: and request a contact phone number/email for the person treating your dossier.
5. For applications made at an FBU, processing time can vary from several week to several months.

Applications made at Consulate/Embassies without an FBU office:

1. Call/write your local US Embassy or Consulate/and make an appointment to come in to apply for a Social Security number.
2. Request information on what documents are needed to be presented.
3. Present documents (including application form: to Embassy/Consulate staff and request a contact phone number/email for the person treating your dossier.
4. Applications made at Consulate/Embassies will take longer than those at FBU offices.

General Guideline for documents needed to present for application:

For more complete information on Social Security, application forms and information on documentation, please visit:

This ACA webpage was updated in October 2016.