On December 22, 2022, the Social Security Administration updated its policy for processing Ukrainian parolees’ applications for social security numbers based on the fact that these categories of applicants are now authorized to work incident to status. The new policy can be found here: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps10/reference.nsf/links/07132022070526AM

This updated instructions provide that humanitarian parolee applicants from Ukraine and Afghanistan are now able to be processed at an SSA office if they supply a passport and I-94 document. Ukrainian applicants who continue to experience issues when applying for an SSN may show the instructions in the above link to the SSA field office personnel.

Prior to this policy change, Ukrainian humanitarian parolees were eligible to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) without receiving employment authorization. This is called a non-working SSN. However, it is only issued to individuals who are able to demonstrate that they require a non-working SSN in order to obtain health or social services benefits. 

In order to apply for a non-working SSN, the applicant must bring their passport, I-94 printout, and a letter from the state or federal government entity that explains why the applicant needs a non-working SSN before they can receive medical, food, cash, or other benefits.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) provides the following guidance on applying for a non-working SSN:

“As explained in our Programs Operations Manual System (POMS) –  Section RM 10211.600 (available on SSA.GOV), SSA will not assign an SSN to an alien who is currently in lawful immigration status in the U.S. but does not have DHS work authorization unless the alien has a valid nonwork reason for an SSN.  For example, a valid nonwork reason for assigning an SSN is a State or local law requires the alien who is legally in the U.S. to provide his or her SSN to get public assistance benefits to which the alien has otherwise established entitlement (i.e., the state or local government has determined the individual is eligible).

To document a valid need for a nonwork SSN, the individual must provide:

  • Evidence of age, identity and current alien status, and
  • A letter from the appropriate government entity that explains the need for an SSN.

The alien must provide an original letter from a governmental agency with very specific requirements. The letter from the government agency must meet these requirements and contain the below components: 

  • It must be dated and on letterhead stationery;
  • It must specifically identify the alien,
  • It must state the nonwork reason an SSN is required (e.g., determined eligible for TANF, SNAP, etc.),
  • It must site the relevant statute or regulations requiring the SSN as a condition to receive the benefit or service,
  • It provide the name and telephone number of an official to contact so that the information provided may be verified;
  • It must state that the alien meets all the requirements to receive the benefit or service, except for an SSN; and
  • It must have the wet signature of the authorized official (must be a member of management) for the government entity.

If the benefit letter does not meet all of the above requirements, SSA cannot assign an SSN.”

Unfortunately, each state agency provides a different letter to Ukrainians who apply for benefits. Some states do not issue these types of letters before the applicant applies for benefits. In other states, it is not necessary to have an SSN at all in order to qualify for certain benefits. For this reason, Ukrainian humanitarian parolees experience issues in certain states where the state benefits-granting agencies do not provide documentation that is sufficient for the local SSA office. 

In states where the state government agency does not provide a letter to Ukrainian parolees with the exact specifications required above, the local SSA office may deny an application for a non-working SSN. Similarly, in states that do not require an SSN at all in order to obtain certain benefits, the local SSA office may deny the application for a non-working SSN.

If this happens, Ukrainian parolees may request a working SSN by applying for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) using Form I-765. Adults and children may apply for employment authorization regardless of age or imminent employment plans. In fact, social services organizations in multiple states report seeing senior citizens, minor children, and even infants applying for employment authorization in order to obtain an SSN. 

To receive a working SSN with an EAD, humanitarian parolees may apply by mail or through their online USCIS account. Beginning December 5, Ukrainian humanitarian parolees may apply for an EAD online without paying a fee. To obtain the fee exemption when filing an initial application for an EAD online, follow these instructions when filling out your electronic Form I-765 application: In the “basis of eligibility” section, provide your “eligibility category” by selecting from the drop-down list “c(11) Ukraine Parole”. Select your reason for applying as “Initial permission to accept employment”. Review and submit the application to receive the $0 fee.

In addition to federal public assistance, Ukrainian humanitarian parolees may also qualify for state or local assistance without obtaining an SSN. Eligibility for state or local benefits varies by jurisdiction.

Outside of governmental assistance, there are also social service organizations that provide grants and services to newly arriving Ukrainians.

For more information on resources available for new arrivals, visit https://ukraine.welcome.us/resources and https://docs.google.com/document/d/1U4TAKvRDQqg0bce3IWN2VuJsmJIr99QWAsRUiPMG4_I/edit.

To learn more about resettlement agencies in your area, visit https://www.svitlous.org/for-newcomers.