Wed | Nov 14, 2018

I have a social security number. Can I work legally?

Published:Tuesday | December 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM
Dahlia Walker-Huntington United States

Dahlia Walker-Huntington United States

Good day, Mrs Walker Huntington:

I am a Jamaican in the United States of America (USA) on a B1/B2 visa that expires in April next year. I have a social security number from my previous visits here as a J1 visa holder. What I would like to know is am I legally allowed to work here now even though I am on a visitor's visa? On my social security card it says valid to work only with Department of Homeland Security authorisation. If not, what can I do to get Homeland Security authorisation?

Thank you in advance for your timely response.


Dear K.J.:

Persons in the United States on a B1/B2 visa are not allowed to work even if they are in possession of a social security number.

You may be in the United States on a visa that expires April 2015 or when you arrived in the USA, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer gave you six months in the country that expires April 2015. Be advised that you should not remain in the United States for six months or just before the expiration date of your stay. CBP normally gives visitors a six-month period of stay out of convenience, i.e. if you should become ill and have to stay beyond the few weeks you told the officer you were visiting, you would not have to apply for an extension.

Unfortunately, many persons take this six-month stamp to mean that they can remain in the country for months, as long as they leave before the six months have expired they haven't abused their visiting privileges. What these persons often realise when it is too late is that staying extended periods in the United States results either in the denial of entry on a future trip, or when they go to renew their visas it is denied.


Too often, people enter the United States as a visitor and work for a few months at a time and return home and repeat the process. US Homeland Security and the US embassies around the world are aware of these practices and they do deny entry and the renewal of non-immigrant visas to persons whose travel patterns reflect extended stays in America. If you are the owner of a visitor's visa, visit for a few weeks and return home if you want to preserve your visa.

Your previously issued J1 visa allowed you to work in the United States and the issuance of your social security number. As stated on the social security card, you need permission to work in addition to the card. A B1/B2 visa does not give you that permission. A temporary work authorisation comes in many forms, it can be an H1B, H2B, J1 visa, among others, and it can also be issued if you are the immediate beneficiary of an immigrant visa, e.g. if a US citizen spouse were to file an immigrant visa petition on your behalf.

Dahlia A. Walker-Huntington is a Jamaican-American attorney who practises immigration law in the United States; and family, criminal and personal injury law in Florida. She is a mediator, arbitrator and special magistrate in Broward County, Florida; and an adjunct professor at Miami Dade College's School of Criminal Justice. Email