Social security issues

“I lived in the U.S. 10 years ago with a green card. Unfortunately, I never bothered to apply for citizenship when I had the chance. I am back in the U.S. now, and I have a couple of questions. First, is the Social Security number that was issued to me all of those years ago still valid, and can I use it for work purposes, and to also obtain a driver’s license? If I use a Social Security number for work, will the U.S. government have any way of knowing that I let my green card lapse and that I’m now here illegally?”

The Social Security number that you received all those years ago is still valid and will always be valid. As you were a permanent resident at the time the card would have been issued without restriction – the Social Security Administration also issues cards to temporary residents that clearly note the card’s validity for work only with Department of Homeland Security authorization, and to non-citizens whose cards note that they are not valid for employment at all.

However, just because you own an unrestricted Social Security number, this absolutely does not mean that you have the right to legal employment here. For that you need either a green card or a visa issued to you on behalf of a U.S. employer seeking your services. A Social Security number can never take the place of a visa as far as legal permission to work in the U.S. goes.

With regard to obtaining a driver’s license, each state regulates its own particular guidelines. In New York, those who have Social Security cards are required to submit other documents that prove age and identity. There are a list of items that the New York State DMV assigns a point value to, and once the applicant reaches four points, the person can proceed to apply for a learner permit or license. Visit for more information.

If you are having Social Security deductions taken from your paycheck using your number, the government doesn’t have any way of also knowing that you are working here without legal status. There are a number of undocumented workers who comply with U.S. tax law either by using a Social Security number or a taxpayer ID number known as an ITIN when filing tax returns.

Change of Address

“Is it true that you have to notify immigration if you change addresses, even if you’ve had a green card for seven years? This doesn’t seem right to me, but someone told me that you had to do this.”

YES, it is true that you must keep a current address on file with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS), even if you’ve had a green card for a lengthy period of time. USCIS requires that a change of address be reported within 10 days of the move.

It’s easy to complete the process online. Visit and use the search tool for the AR-11 address change paperwork. This can be completed either online in a matter of minutes, or you can print the paperwork and submit by mail. There is no fee for doing so.

Obviously, it is especially important for permanent residents who have pending business with the USCIS to maintain a reliable and current address.