Tips Following Arrival in the U.S.

Once an individual arrives in the U.S. in valid immigration status, there are some immigration-related matters to keep in mind. Here are some tips to consider following an arrival.

Verify Accurate Admission into the U.S.

CBP officers at ports-of-entry may not have extensive training and may be unfamiliar with particular visas. So if there is an issue or problem, individuals should attempt to speak with the supervisor on duty. If the issue or problem is not resolved at the supervisory level, individuals should note as much information as possible about the situation (the location of the incident, the name or badge number of the officer, the specific issue raised, etc.) and contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm as soon as possible. Note that the use of cell phones is typically restricted, so individuals may be unable to call for assistance from the inspections area.

Each time individuals apply for and are granted temporary admission to the U.S., they typically receive a Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record. Individuals should check their Form I-94 at the time of admission to ensure that the visa classification (E-2, L-1, H-1B, etc.) and admission dates are correct. Individuals should make every effort to have an error corrected at the time of admission. If unable to do so, individuals should contact Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm as soon as possible thereafter.

REMINDER: Once admitted to the U.S., Garfinkel Immigration clients should forward via e-mail, fax or mail a copy of their Form I-94 and copies of any dependent family members/cohabitating partners' Form I-94s so that we can update our database, confirm the entry information on the Form I-94 is accurate and send a reminder when an application for extension of stay should be filed.

Applying for a Social Security Number (SSN)

Following arrival in the U.S., individuals authorized to work in the U.S. may apply for a Social Security Number ("SSN"). We recommend waiting at least ten (10) calendar days following entry to the U.S. to make application so that nonimmigrant status is updated in the Social Security system's database.

The Social Security Administration is a separate government agency and is not a division of the USCIS. The SSA administers social security benefits in the U.S. Any individual working in the U.S. must have an SSN to collect social security benefits.

In order to apply for an SSN, social security applicants must appear in person at a Social Security Administration (SSA) office to submit their application. Individuals may access the SSA website at to obtain the application form/instructions and to locate the closest local SSA office.

The following documents should be presented to the Social Security official:

  • Valid passport
  • I-94 Record (see above)
  • A completed Form SS-5, Application for a Social Security Card
  • Second form of identification, such as a U.S. or international driver's license

Currently, it takes the SSA approximately two weeks to assign an SSN. However, the SSA instituted a verification system whereby the SSA must verify the individual's immigration documents with the USCIS before it will issue a social security card. The SSA reports that it usually issues the card within two (2) days of receiving verification from USCIS. Most of the time the SSA can quickly verify the immigration documents online with USCIS. However, if the SSA cannot verify the immigration documents online, it may take several weeks or even months to obtain the verification response from USCIS.

When submitting an SSN application, individuals can request a copy of the uncertified SSN application for their records. Individuals can also provide the SSA with a telephone number, and the SSA will notify applicants telephonically of the SSN issuance before they receive the card in the mail.

Another alternative is to call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 and ask for the SSN. The Teleservice Representative may be able to locate and provide the SSN (after verifying identity) when the number has been issued.

If there is a significant delay in receiving an SSN, applicants may contact our office to follow up with SSA and the appropriate USCIS office to ensure that status verification is completed as soon as possible.

Applying for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)

Internal Revenue Service ( ITIN for dependent family members who are not work authorized.

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a tax processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service ("IRS"). It is a nine-digit number that always begins with the number 9 and has a 7 or 8 in the fourth digit, example 9XX-7X-XXXX.

The IRS issues ITINs to individuals who are required to have a U.S. taxpayer identification number but who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain a SSN from the SSA.

ITINs are issued regardless of immigration status because both resident and nonresident aliens may have U.S. tax return and payment responsibilities under the Internal Revenue Code. Individuals must have a filing requirement and file a valid federal income tax return to receive an ITIN, unless they meet an exception.

What is an ITIN used for?

ITINs are for federal tax reporting only, and are not intended to serve any other purpose. An ITIN does not authorize work in the U.S. or provide eligibility for Social Security benefits or the Earned Income Tax Credit. ITINs are not valid identification outside the tax system.

IRS issues ITINs to help individuals comply with the U.S. tax laws, and to provide a means to efficiently process and account for tax returns and payments for those not eligible for Social Security Numbers.

Who needs an ITIN?

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.

Examples of individuals who need ITINs include:

  • Non-resident alien filing a U.S. tax return and not eligible for a SSN
  • U.S. resident alien (based on days present in the United States) filing a U.S. tax return and not eligible for a SSN
  • Dependent or spouse of a U.S. citizen/resident alien
  • Dependent or spouse of a non-resident alien visa holder

Apply for a Driver's License at the Department of Motor Vehicles

In the U.S., each State makes its own laws about eligibility for a driver's license and the documents required in order to obtain one. The following is a link to each state's particular driver's license rules.

For information about eligibility and documents required in connection with obtaining a North Carolina Driver's License, individuals may access:

Completing Form I-9

All U.S. employers must complete and retain a Form I-9 for each individual they hire for employment in the United States. This includes citizens and noncitizens. To complete the form, an employer must examine the employment eligibility and identity document(s) an employee presents to determine whether the document(s) reasonably appear to be genuine and relate to the individual and then record the document information on the Form I-9.

A human resource contact, manager, company agent or representative should ensure that each employee completes a Form I-9 within three (3) days of hire. A list of documents that may be presented to complete the Form I-9 is available on the last page of the Form I-9. They include but are not limited to:

  • Valid passport
  • Form I-94 Arrival Departure Record
  • Notice of Action Form I-797
  • Copy of visa stamp in passport

Please click here to view the USCIS I-9 Handbook (Form M-274).

Completing Form AR-11 (Change of Address)

According to U.S. immigration law, any nonimmigrant or lawful permanent resident living in the United States must notify the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services ("USCIS") of any change of address within ten (10) days of moving.

It is an individual's responsibility to file Form AR-11 with the USCIS. Following a move, this form should be resubmitted via certified mail, return receipt requested to the address listed on the form and to the following address:

U.S. Department of Homeland Security
Citizenship and Immigration Services
Attn: Change of Address
1344 Pleasants Drive
Harrisonburg, VA 22801

We recommend keeping a copy of the filing and the signed return receipt as proof of satisfying the filing notification requirement. The Form AR-11 is also available online at and can be filed electronically.

Garfinkel Immigration Law Firm clients should also update our office with the new address and contact information by sending us an e-mail or logging onto our website using the user name and password assigned.