Three Types of Social Security Cards Explained

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A Social SecurityNumber (SSN) is an important piece of information that everyone living in the United States should have. You’ll need it to be allowed to work in the country, to open a credit or bank account, to purchase a car, to obtain health insurance, to obtain a driver’s license, to claim various government benefits, and to facilitate several other critical activities in your life.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) issues three types of security cards: unrestricted, restricted, and non-work.

Let’s have a detailed look at each card, so you can see which one you are eligible to receive.

  1. Unrestricted Social Security Card

This is the most common type of Social Security card and is issued to U.S citizens and other permanent residents. This card contains your name and your SSN.

It gives you the right to legally work in the United States with no restrictions. This allows you to accumulate the Social Security credits geared to make you eligible for retirement and disability benefits.

  1. Restricted Social Security Card

This form of Social Security card also has your name and SSN. Nonetheless, it has another annotation: “VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION.”

You’ll get this card if you’re working in the U.S. on a temporary basis, such as if you are an H1 or L1 employee.

  1. Non-work Social Security Card

While this type of Social Security card also has your name and SSN, it has an annotation that reads: “NOT VALID FOR EMPLOYMENT.”

You’ll get this card if you need an SSN to receive certain benefits or social service, but you have no authorization to work in the U.S. in any capacity.

It’s worth noting that how long it takes to get your Social Security card will depend on several factors. However, it normally takes 2 to 3 weeks to get a new or replacement Social Security card.

Decoding the SSN Numbers

Your 9-digit SSN is divided into three parts, but do you know what the numbers mean?

  • The first three digits are referred to as the Area Number. Originally, the numbers represented the State or region where your SSN was issued. Today, however, they are randomly assigned.
  • The second three digitsare referred to as the Group Number. These numbers have no geographical or data meaning.
  • The last four digits are simply the numerical series of digits from 0001 to 9999 assigned within each group.

You can often tell the state in which someone was born, or at least where they’ve lived, by looking at the first three digits of their Social Security number.


The SSA issues three types of Social Security cards depending on your citizenship status and work-eligibility status. The first type of card is issued only to U.S citizens and permanent residents. The second type is issued to non-U.S. citizens with authorization to work in the country, while the third type is issued to non-U.S. citizens without authorization to work in the U.S.

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