Dependent spouses can’t get Social Security numbers – and don’t discard that old passport!
We have been receiving a number of inquiries from non-immigrant spouses of H-1B and O-1 visa holders regarding how to obtain a Social Security number and how to apply for a new passport when the old expiring passport contains the visa stamp.
Although difficult to fathom in this supposedly enlightened age, two of the most used temporary work visas for professionals and academics, the H-1B and the O-1, do not provide for work authorization for the dependent spouse. The spouse of the H-1B receives an H-4 visa and the spouse of an O-1 visa-holder receives an O-3 visa. Neither the H-4 nor the O-3 permits the spouse to work, although they do allow for study. As a consequence, and very disappointingly, neither the H-4 nor the O-3 visa holder can qualify for the social security number.
With respect to expired passports, when you apply for a new passport prior to overseas travel, it is important to remember that you must retain your old passport containing your valid visa stamp. When you enter the U.S. in a specific visa status, you must present both your old passport with the valid visa stamp and the new passport at each entry. So from now on, you will be traveling with two passports and a wide rubber band.