Tag Archives: ssn

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. 🙂


The 10 Steps To Your E3 or H1B Visa and Work

OK i just wanted to do a quick note on the outline of getting your visa so it is an easy reference post with not too much fluff for people so they get an overview. I am not sure either if there are exactly 10 steps but it sounds like a nice round number so lets start writing and see how many major steps there are.

Step 1. Find An Employer (Visa Sponsor) – without going into too much detail as I will ina later post my favourite sites include craigslist.org, monster.com and linkedin.com for searching

Step 2. Have The Employer Fill Out The Sponsorship Document and Pay The Relavent Filing Fees – I guess technically you could do this on their behalf and pay for it and then have them send it but chances if it is a reputable employer they will do it all probably via their attorneys. For H1B this requires filing to both US Immigration and Department of Labor and for E3 just Department of Labor.

Step 3. Understand Your Dates – For E3 this is relatively simple as the forms can be filed all year around and although their is an annual quota it has never been reached and you can begin employment at any time. As for H1B this is more complicated as there is annual filing date of April 1 and hard quotas as well. Even if you get your approval and your visa from the consulate you cannot begin employment until October 1 that year.

Step 4, Make you Interview – When you have or anticipate to have all your documents both from your employer and the ones you have to prepare yourself along with fees, photos and other proof documents ready then book an interview with your closed US consulate that can process that type of visa. Every country and sometimes city has different wait times, methods of interview, turnaround times, etc. so be prepared

Step 5. Book Your Ticket – Depending on how brave and confident you are, you could have done this earlier on in anticipation of getting your visa but in any case I will put it here. Be prepared at your port of entry into the US especially if you have an E3 visa (as it is largely unheard of even by Immigration staff at the border) to answer potential questions. Don’t worry if you have all in order you will be fine, although it may seem tense depending on the person you get. I have had both awesome and not so good people.

Step 6. Get A Social Security Number – This is essentially your key to living in the US and is vital from everything to opening a bank account, getting a mobile phone, credit cards, signing a lease, potentially getting paid…although with a lot of these things technically it is not required but you have to do a lot of talking to superiors and no what you are talking about (I will discuss this in a later post). You can only do this from within the country and it can take up to 6 weeks for them to send you your card and number but usually it is 2-4 weeks.

Step 7. Start Work!!

Well what do you know I guess it was only 7 steps…and like I said there is more detail and tips to the steps above which I will cover in the future as well as steps in between like finding a place to live, best phone plans, discounts, etc. but this at least is a high level overview of your journey.

Bon Voyage 🙂