If you come to the US as an expat, there is one document that seems to outweigh anything else in importance. It’s not your passport or foreign ID, not even your visa – of course they are important and you wouldn’t be granted entrance into the country without them, but I’m talking about a document that you need in order to start your life here:
The SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER (SSN)
Granted the mills of the administrative bodies grind as slowly as they do in Germany, we were prepared and showed up to the social security office the very morning after getting here so my husband (who has the work visa & will be receiving income and paying taxes) can apply for that special number. Everything went accordingly and I asked just out of curiosity if I could apply for one as well, even though I just have a dependency visa. Turns out: I can! But I had to have our marriage license in order to do so, which I didn’t that day. We went back the next day and I could apply for the SSN without problems.
To our surprise we had mail from the social security office after just 5 days – even more surprisingly it was MY SSN…even though I applied one day later than my husband, and mine wouldn’t be so important (we thought!)
We thought: Well, maybe since my husband has the more important work-visa they’re just checking everything more diligently and he’ll receive his in a few days….
That clearly was a wrong assumption!
Here we are, one month later…and our live is pretty much in limbo because my husband still hasn’t received his SSN. On top of that, we can’t even ask about it’s whereabouts or what might have gone wrong, because the social security office is “temporarly closed due to water damage” <<< temporarly has been 2-3 weeks already with no information when it might open up again. Sure there are other offices but we were told that, NO – can’t go there, won’t get any information because when it’s about an application for the SSN only the office you applied at can look into the matter – it’s ridiculous.
Now, let me explain to you why exactly that is such a dilemma for us – after all it’s just a tiny paper slip with a number on it, right? Nooooooo, no no no noooooo…..here in the US it is much more than that: it’s your personal, special, almost holy number everyone you get in contact with about other contracts, applications, sign-ups, keeps asking for. Basically, you don’t actually exist without that number!!
So it turns out that we are even lucky I got MY number, because other wise we probably couldn’t have moved into our home. You need it to sign up for gas & electrical utilities and all that. You need it to get a Michigan Driver’s License (even just transcribing yours), and you need it even to simply buy/lease a car. The latter we are ready to do, only my husbands SSN keeps us from it (can’t use mine in that case, we did ask!) Even more important, my husband needs it to get on payroll for work, and to sign us up for health insurance. I already was in tears because of that…I’m pregnant and I do need to see a doctor for check up and getting ready to bring this child into the world in less than 3 months. Only after begging and pleading, someone from HR department at my husbands work managed to get me a health insurance ID number so I can make an appointment with a doctor (again, only thanks to me having MY SSN).
And so the waiting for the number of special importance continues…..