Now You Have Your H-1B or E-3 Visa What About Social Security & Healthcare?

Apart from the fact online there is very limited information (especially freely available) about the whole visa process, how much it costs and how you can get one beyond a forum here and there, there is also not much about this topic.

So you have followed your own instincts, other resources or maybe even the information contained in this blog. You now have your H-1B visa or your E-3 Visa and you are soon to board a plane to take you to the US.

Well the first thing is to realise that you will have an experience that will benefit you for the rest of your life and no matter what you may face that may be different from what you are used to, it will be a challenge that will only benefit you.

So there are 2 aspects of society, I will cover briefly in this post today and combined with other posts both already posted and in the future you will get a great insight into the US life in the early days.

1. Social Security Number

This number is the absolute key to you function in the US System. Once you have a Social Security Number, you have it for life so if you have applied and received for a social security number on a prior visa like J-1 visa for Work and Travel or Internship that number still applies.

Many companies and people are under the mistaken illusion that you can’t get paid until you have the Social Security Number but that is NOT entirely true. You must have APPLIED for the Social Security Number at the the very least and your employer can put APPLIED where they would normally write your number on the employer tax forms. Then when you get the number it can be inputted. (this is the Government Social Security Site confirming you do not need a SSN to begin work).

You can apply for your Social Security Number (SSN) a few days after you arrive in the US on a work visa like H1B or E3. The reason why you have to wait a few days is that your arrival needs to be registered in the US System and that can take a few days.

All you need is your Passport with your visa, your I-94 card, filled out application form and letter of employment and you are set. The card will be mailed to usually within 2-8 weeks. You can often go back to the same office a few days later and get your number even if you haven’t got your card.

This number will be used by landlords, phone companies, banks/credit cards, health providers and of course your employer to verify you, check your credit, etc. so do not give this out to anyone as it is the basis of identity fraud in the US.

2. Health Care and Health Insurance in the US

I have a link to my Health 101 post in the US which is a little more detailed than this short synopsis will be. Suffice to say Healthcare and Health Insurance in the US is nothing like anywhere else in the world.

It is extremely expensive, there is virtually no safety net and the entire industry is a for profit venture like any other business. In most parts of the world, you are probably used to a system where your Government covers half, most or all of your health and medication costs. If Private Insurance is part of your system, the monthly costs or premiums while seeming excessive in your own land pales in comparison to the hundreds of dollars a month required here for the basic coverage.

Well chances are your employer either fully or maybe in conjunction with a deduction in your pay check is paying for your Health Insurance. Most coverage comes in 4 parts, being medical, prescription, dental and optical.

The terms you have to become familar with is the US Health system are;

co-pays: Which is a payment made by you as a small contribution for a medical visit (usually $10-$50 depending on your plan). Some plans have no co-pays

Rx: Is the US short hand mean prescription

Your health insurance provider negotiates rates with providers so they will usually cover 100% of fees if you visit somebody in network. They may only pay 80-90% of costs if you visit some out of network.

Also just as a final point of note US eye doctors and optometrists are not allowed to fill foreign eye prescriptions. You must have a prescription from a US doctor (you can always find places in Chinatown areas that will bend this rule)

I hope this all helped…till next time. 🙂


29 thoughts on “Now You Have Your H-1B or E-3 Visa What About Social Security & Healthcare?

  1. Thank you so much for such great info.
    My husband and i have been looking into moving into the US for a few years now and this is best website i have come across.
    The E3 is our ticket to the US but as you have noted it may as well be the Loch Ness Monster for the few employers in the US that have ever heard let alone seen one in use.

    Thanks again & hoping I will be posting soon to say that we finally have our elusive E3 & job in the US.

  2. Hi Charmaine,
    Keep the search up and don’t give up. Yes the E3 visa is more unknown but it also is far easier to hire a foreigner and potentially is no cost to the employer unlike the H1B visa. Check out our E3 Visa FAQs and the E3 Visa Employer Database as starting reference points as well if you haven’t already.
    Good Luck,

  3. Just wanted to say I’m in the final stages of applying for my E3 (interview in Sydney in a few weeks) and your website has been invaluable. I’ve previously dealt with immigration in the UK and Australia but the American system is by far the most difficult to navigate. Your site has saved my sanity on a few occasions! Keep up the good work.

  4. Hi Andi,
    Thank you for the kind words as I am glad we were of some small comfort and interest for you in your journey. Congratulations on finding a sponsor and almost getting your E3 visa officially. Yes the US system is the most crazy and difficult to navigate as well as being not very fair to foreigners. When you do get your E3 visa, if you have time, come back and document your experiences as it will no doubt help other people with how you found a role and got your E3 visa.

  5. Thank you so much for your site! I actually have already got my E3 (today is day 3 of my new employment), but I wish I found this site earlier. Why can’t government sites break it down so clearly? 🙂

    Anyway, even finding it now has answered so many questions for me and helped me so much. Thanks you!!!

  6. I am on E-3 visa in US since last 2 years. My employer forced me to take up H1B visa (due to its dual intent). Therefore I went to Australia for H1B stamping and then employer started my green card processing.

  7. Hi,
    What about for an E3D visa (dependent/wife of E3 visa holder). How do you get the Social security number?

  8. Hi Michelle,
    You take your passport with your visa stamp to the Social Security office and fill out the application form.

  9. Thank you so much for the amazing post! I have just received a job offer from a sponsoring employer in the US, and will have to return home to apply for the E3 visa now.

    I had a few questions in regards to the social security number

    – Do I have to enter the US on my E3 visa in order to become eligible for my SSN, or would it be okay to come into the US under the visa waiver program well before my E3 visa (approved and attached to passport) becomes valid (10 days before starting date with employer)? The reason I ask is I prefer to have my SSN secured before the start date of my work, and if I can only enter US on my E3 10 days before my start date, then it’s impossible to get my SSN befor estarting work.

    – When I apply for the E3 visa in Australia, and it gets mailed back to me, when is it valid for? Would it be the same days as stated in the Labor Condition Application? Or would it be valid for 2 years from the date of issue? If it is valid for the period stated in the LCA, then I’d wish to apply for the E3 as soon as possible to minimise any chance of hiccups in the process. If it’s valid only for 2 years from date of issue, I’d prefer to get the visa closer to date.

    I hope you’re still active answering questions here. Words can barely express how thankful and appreciative I am for your help if you are.

  10. Kelvin here are the facts about Social Security Numbers and Foreigners working in the US as well as your questions;
    – You can’t enter the US on the Visa Waiver Program and then while in the country then operate on E-3 visa status. You have to enter on the E-3 visa status and operate under those terms (i.e The 10 day rule)
    – Therefore you will only be able to apply for your SSN after arriving and within those 10 days. Usually processing time to get your card is around 4-8 weeks but often you can call up a little earlier or go back to the office just to get your number
    – The good news is regardless of getting your number a little earlier you can still be paid by your employer and do things like open a bank account if you have applied for a SSN. The Social Security Office will give you a confirmation document showing you have applied and the payroll department at your company and the bank will just put “Applied” in the Social Security field of relevant forms. Once you have the number itself you can give it to them to change
    – Your E-3 visa will be valid from either the current date they put the E-3 visa stamp in your passport or the start date on your LCA, whichever comes last.

  11. Hi CJ,

    Great site, the information is great.

    What exactly does the I-94 look like. I’ve entered the USA on VWP and B1/B2, now just in the process of getting my E3. Is it something special that customs give you when they see that you have got an E3 Visa in your passport?

    Also – have you heard of any of the Australian consulates being better or worse at approving E3s. I’ve heard some anecdotal evidence to suggest that Melbourne is stricter than Sydney.



  12. Greg the I-94 is a white document usually given to on the plane on the way to the US. At the border the USCIS agent will rip the bottom part of it off and staple it into your passport near your visa. This will be removed when you leave the US and the process repeats everytime you enter the US on a visa. Any sentiment about US Consulates would be pure anecdote and speculation. There is no publicly available statistics on this and really each agent at any individual US consulate could be different in what and how much they scrutinize.

  13. Do you know if you have to pay social security tax when on a E3 visa. I ask this as if we do pay it we will never be able to actually claim the unemployment benifits as once you loose your job you have to leave the country and it seems like if we have to we loose out and end up paying the tax for all the Americans who can claim unemployment…?

  14. Hi,

    I would like to know the answer to Ben’s question above too. Someone had told us we should not be paying social security on an E3 visa, but we have been since March. Can you please let know more about this?

  15. Hi Cj,
    My Wife and I are currently in the E3 circus and about to have it issued. She is the Aussie and getting the E3, while I’m a Kiwi and riding her coat tails in on an E3D. In regards to SSN, we were both issued with SSN in 2002 while working there on H2B Visas. I have heard the SSN is for life but ours are stamped ‘Valid for Work only with DHS authorization’. While it sounds like I am answering my own question, do you know if these will be reactivated on arrival or issuance of the Visa or do we need to go to the Social security office? Cheers Scott

  16. Hi,

    My husband (who will be on the E3 visa) and I (who will be a dependent) will be planning to come over soon.

    I’m currently pregnant and is planned to deliver around June’16.

    I was wondering what sort of medical support I can have, if not, what options do I have when I get there. Also what would be the out-of-pocket cost of giving birth in the US under a dependent E3 visa?

    Any more information would be appreciate.


  17. I have heard the requirements for an E-3D spouse have changed, in regards to SSN. I was able to get my social with passport, visa and I -94 but have heard that now people applying will have to have an EAD before they apply. Can you tell me if this is true and if it is when did this happen? It is extremely difficult to keep up with all this visa related info! Thanks

  18. I have been in the US for almost 2 months now and still haven’t received my ss number. My visa is E3 and received my green card yesterday. Do you have any idea what do they check before issuing a ss number and why its taking it so long. I will be glad to hear from you.

  19. What are the rules when applying for health insurance after entering the US with your E3 visa?

  20. Can you tell me if there is a downloadable form for the SSN for E3 – non resident applicants? secondly if my wife goes to the SS office as my proxy (as I will be at work) can she submit the application on my behalf?
    Can she get an SSN for herself on the E3D?
    Is there an easier way for a spouse on an E3D to work or is it necessary to file an I-765 and wait up to 3 months to get it approved?
    thanks! PS: your clarity and insight is very helpful

  21. OK, So I found out:
    getting my SSN on the E3 was easy, fill out the downloadble form, bring passport with valid Visa – no drama
    with regard to the wife, an anomoly is you can not get an ssn on an E3D unless you have a valid work authorisation, which costs around $500 to apply for, but you can go to the IRS and get a number that will allow you get get a credit card or apply for things that require an ssn.

  22. Can I drive on my Australian driver’s license in California on an E3 visa? Thanks

  23. I am an E3D (dependent spouse of E3 holder) – soon after arriving tried to apply for a SSN and was told by the Social Security office I had to submit a I-765 ‘Application for Employment Authorisation’ form (EAD) by mail to the Department of Homeland Security in Dallas TX.
    (On the main site there is a comprehensive how to fill in the form.)

    The ‘Eligibility Catergory’ is (a)(17) for an E3D.
    The current fee (Jan. ’17) is US$410 and you are not required to pay for a Biometric fee.
    As the documentation required includes the I-94 (now electronic) – you can get your copy online from
    I also enclosed colour photocopies of my main passport page plus current E3D visa page
    and two US standard visa photographs.

    Be aware that for medical insurance dependents may require SSNs – check with your HR department/employer.
    Good luck – America is fantastic!

  24. HI there,
    just moved to the US on an E3 Visa and shocked by the Social Security deduction from my pay. Do I need to pay this and if yes can I claim back upon departure?



  25. Scott, yes you do need to pay this. You can’t access it upon leaving but assuming you are an Australian citizen and because of the ongoing tax treaty between the two countries, you will have access to these benefits based on Social Security payout rules at normal retirement age and assuming you are retired, subject to potential withholding. See here for more info.

    The Visa Coach

  26. Hello,

    Are children of E3 Visa parents eligible for free education in USA?

    Children are born in Australia.


  27. Hi CJ,

    I hope you’re still actively answering questions. Dealing with the SSN Department has been a nightmare and apparently I have to have and EAD/i-766/i-765 to be eligible for an SSN. Everyone I’ve talked to and all my research say all an E3 visa holder (principle applicant) needs is the i-94.. No one in the local SSN office will listen.. Today is the 10th consecutive day I’ve been turned down.
    Any help would be highly appreciated!

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