FAQs

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS:

IDENTIFICATION AND DOCUMENTATION

LEGAL ISSUES

PROFESSIONAL DEVELOPMENT

GOVERNMENT AND CONSULS

WHAT DOCUMENTATION DO I NEED IN ORDER FOR THE WELCOMING CENTER TO SERVE ME?

The Welcoming Center will provide employment consultation to jobseekers who make an appointment in advance, come dressed professionally, and provide the following documentation:

  • Work Authorization: naturalization certificate, permanent resident card, or employment authorization card.
  • Social Security card
  • PA driver’s license or state ID with current address
  • One additional proof of address: for example a phone bill, gas bill, postmarked envelope, etc. with your name and current address.

Other documents to bring, if available:

  • Resume or work history
  • Certificates for training, education, etc.

 

HOW DO I GET A SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER?

You may obtain a Social Security number by filling out Form SS-5, an application for a Social Security card. The Social Security Administration can be reached at 1-800-772-1213, or at www.ssa.gov.

If you are not a U.S. citizen, you must show Social Security your birth certificate or passport, and the documents given to you by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS). Social Security will need to see original documents, not photocopies. Examples of USCIS documents include your Alien Registration Receipt Card (green card) or employment authorization card. Because these documents should not be mailed, you should apply in person.

If you are a U.S. citizen born outside the U.S., Social Security will need to see your consulate report of birth (FS-240 or FS-545) if you have one. They will also need to see one form of identification, for example, a passport or driver's license. If you do not have your consular report of birth, Social Security will need to see your foreign birth certificate and one of the following: an S citizen's ID card, U.S. passport, Certificate of Citizenship, or a Certificate of Naturalization. Again, you must show original documents.

If you are applying for a card for a child or someone else, you will need to show Social Security that person's original or certified birth certificate and one more document showing the person's identity. For example, for a child, Social Security may accept a doctor or hospital bill, a school record or any similar document showing the child's identity. Also, if you are going to sign the form, you will need to show proper identification.

Here is a list of some examples of identity documents that Social Security will accept:

  • Driver's license
  • U.S. government or state employee ID card
  • Passport
  • School ID card, record, or report card
  • Marriage/divorce record
  • Military records

If you feel you may not qualify for a social security number, but want to pay taxes, you may apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).
 

HOW DO I APPLY FOR A DRIVER'S LICENSE?

A Pennsylvania driver's license allows you to drive in the United States, and is also an accepted form of identification for many purposes. You can also apply for a learner's permit, which allows you to drive in a vehicle with a licensed driver, and a state identification card, which does not allow you to drive but is an accepted form of identification for many purposes. Call the Pennsylvania Department of Motor Vehicles for information on where to apply at 1-800-932-4600.

Forms, office locations, and other information relating to obtaining a driver's license can be found at the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation's website: http://www.dot3.state.pa.us.

Please note: Many times Driver's Licensing Centers will ask if you want to be included in the Motor Voter registration.  This provides uniform voter registration services to those applying for or updating their driver's license.  If you are not a US citizen, you cannot register to vote!  This is illegal and could cause problems regarding your immigrant status.

To apply for these IDs, non-U.S. citizens must have a valid immigrant or non-immigrant status, such as permanent resident, student, refugee, or asylee. Depending on your status, you will also have to show other forms of identification, generally including a Social Security number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration.

For your convenience, a summary of PennDOT’s identification requirements for non-U.S. citizens in selected common immigration status is below. Please note that this list is not definitive. You are strongly advised to check PennDOT’s official Identity and Residency Requirements for Non-US Citizens (pdf) for your specific immigration status.

Note: Immigrants who do not have valid immigration status in the U.S. are not eligible for Pennsylvania state IDs or driver licenses.

Immigrants (Resident Aliens) need to show:

  • a Social Security card
  • two forms of proof of residency from the list below
  • one of the following: your registration receipt card (USCIS Form I-551), your valid passport stamped "I-551 approved", your valid re-entry permit (USCIS Form I-327)

Non-Immigrants (non-U.S. citizens granted temporary entry into the U.S.) need to show:

  • Social Security Card and two forms of proof of residency from the list below
  • your valid passport
  • your I-94
  • your visa
  • all original USCIS documents that verify your status and authenticate your length of stay

Depending on your visa, you will also need to show:

F-1 or F-2:

  • your I-20
  • written verification of attendance at the school listed on the I-20

H1-A, H1-B, H2-A, H-3, or H-4:

  • written verification from your employer

J-1 or J-2:

  • your IAP-66
  • written verification of attendance at the school listed on the IAP-66

Non-immigrants granted entry for less than one year are not eligible for a PA driver's license, learner's permit, or ID card. Non-immigrants granted entry for more than one year but with less than one year remaining on their entry documents are not eligible for a PA driver's license, learner's permit, or ID card.

Please Note: Only an official USCIS document reflecting a change in status will be accepted. Applications for change in status will not be accepted.

Refugees need to show:

  • your Social Security card
  • one form of proof of residency from the list below
  • your I-94 stamped "Refugee"
  • your reception and placement program assurance form
  • written verification of identity and Pennsylvania residency presented by an employee of a sponsoring organization approved by the U.S. Dept. of State to resettle refugees in Pennsylvania

Refugee who does not have an approved sponsoring organization or asylees need to show:

  • your Social Security Card
  • two forms of proof of residency from the list below
  • your I-94 stamped "Refugee/Asylee"
  • your Employment Authorization Document (USCIS Form I-688 B and I-766)

Please Note: Verification of legal status by the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Service (USCIS) may be required before a PA driver's license, learner's permit, and/or ID card is issued.

Documents accepted as proof of residency:

  • Current utility bills (water, gas, electric, cable, etc.)
  • Tax records
  • Lease agreements
  • Mortgage documents
  • W-2 Form
  • Current weapons permit

Please Note: All documents must show the same name and/or date of birth, or an association between the information on the documents. Additional documentation may be required if a connection between documents cannot be established. (e.g. marriage certificate, court order of name change, divorce decree, etc.)

In addition:

A valid foreign driver's license with a valid international driving permit allows you to drive for up to one year in Pennsylvania before obtaining a PA driver's license.
 

HOW DO I GET AN INDIVIDUAL TAXPAYER IDENTIFICATION NUMBER?

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is a tax-processing number issued by the Internal Revenue Service. IRS issues ITINs to individuals who are required to have a U.S. taxpayer identification number but who do not have, and are not eligible to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) from the Social Security Administration (SSA).

ITINs are issued regardless of immigration status because both resident and nonresident aliens may have U.S. tax return and payment responsibilities under the Internal Revenue Code. Individuals must have a filing requirement and file a valid federal income tax return to receive an ITIN, unless they meet an exception.

Examples of individuals who need ITINs include:

  • Non-resident alien filing a U.S. tax return and not eligible for an SSN
  • U.S. resident alien (based on days present in the United States) filing a U.S. tax return and not eligible for an SSN
  • Dependent or spouse of a U.S. citizen/resident alien
  • Dependent or spouse of a non-resident alien visa holder
  • To apply for an ITIN, use the December 2003 revision of Form W-7, Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. Attach a valid federal income tax return unless you qualify for an exception, and include your original or certified proof of identity documents.

Because you are filing your tax return as an attachment to your ITIN application, you should not mail your return to the address listed in the Form 1040, 1040A or 1040EZ instructions. Instead, send your return, Form W-7 and proof of identity documents to the address listed in the Form W-7 instructions:

Internal Revenue Service

Philadelphia Service Center
ITIN Unit, P.O. Box 447
Bensalem, PA 19020

Instead of mailing your information to the IRS in Philadelphia, you may also apply using the services of an IRS-authorized Acceptance Agent (see www.irs.gov for a list) or visit your IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center:


600 Arch St. Philadelphia

215-861-1225

TACs in the United States provide in-person help with ITIN applications on a walk-in or appointment basis. The IRS's ITIN Unit in Philadelphia issues all numbers by mail.
 

WHERE CAN I GET LEGAL ADVICE AND ASSISTANCE FOR IMMIGRATION MATTERS?

If you seek any kind of immigration benefit from the United States, you should be careful about reading and understanding all the documents that you sign. Seek the advice of a reputable immigration lawyer if you need help.

Each contact you make with the Department of Homeland Security and its U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services branch can have serious legal consequences for you. You should answer questions truthfully, however, know that any discrepancies in your answers can result in the denial of a requested benefit, placement into immigration court, deportation, or a permanent bar from ever re-entering the United States.

It is recommended that you seek out professional advice before completing any immigration forms or petitions for family members. You should always contact a licensed attorney who is skilled in immigration law if:

  • You have ever been arrested or have had contact with the police in the United States or in your home country.
  • You have ever committed a crime
  • You have ever remained in the United States beyond the limit of your authorized stay
  • You ever entered the United States without a visa or with false documents
  • You are currently in the United States without permission

For more information on your rights and on legal services available to you:


Most of these organizations listed offer free or low-cost legal services for immigrants. The Welcoming Center also provides free monthly legal clinics, where lawyers volunteer their time to talk with immigrants about their legal issues. Contact the Welcoming Center at 215-557-2626 if you wish to schedule an appointment.
 

HOW DO I CHOOSE AN IMMIGRATION LAWYER?

When seeking advice or representation in your immigration matters, you should find a lawyer or law firm that practices immigration law. Immigration law constantly changes. Similarly, the Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services branch frequently change the paperwork, forms, procedures, and costs for services. Therefore, you need up-to-date information to make the process as easy and risk free as possible.

In choosing an attorney, make sure that he or she is a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association (AILA). AILA lawyers receive regular updates on the changes in the law and procedures and AILA lawyers participate in regular professional training courses.
 

HOW CAN I IDENTIFY IMMIGRATION SCAMS?

People seeking immigration benefits are frequently the targets of scams and the victims of the unlicensed practice of law. Unethical people may seek to take advantage of you if you do not speak English well, because you are unfamiliar with the laws and customs of the United States, or because they believe you will not go to the police or the courts to complain about them because you are not a lawful immigrant.

Some scams involve having you pay for a benefit that does not exist. For example, in 2004, when President Bush announced that he supported the idea of creating a law that would protect illegal aliens who have jobs, some practitioners started to "sell" this benefit. There is no such law, and there may never be one.

You can also be victimized by someone trying to sell you a benefit for which you are not eligible. For example, you may be prevented from becoming a citizen if you have committed certain crimes. Or if you entered the U.S. without the proper documents and married an American citizen, you may not be able to get a green card without first leaving the U.S. - and then you may be barred from returning for up to 10 years.

Many who prey on the new immigrant population are not lawyers and may use such titles as "notario," "agent," or "immigrant service provider." These people are not licensed, they have met no minimum education requirements, and they do not carry malpractice insurance. There is no government agency that monitors their work.

Because even the simplest immigration forms have legal consequences, obtaining immigration advice or services from non-lawyers can be dangerous. If you do become a victim of their "advice" or "services," you will probably have no means to receive compensation and you may find yourself in serious trouble.
 

IMMIGRATION ADVICE CHECKLIST

Whenever seeking out immigration assistance, remember to:

  • Verify whether the person who is helping you is a licensed attorney
  • Inquire whether he or she is a member of AILA
  • Make sure that before you pay for legal services you have a signed written contract describing the scope of the services to be provided
  • Make sure the services you pay for are based on the current law and current benefits, not proposed laws or policies that sound good, but are not real
  • Make sure that you are eligible for the benefit you seek
  • Always retain copies of every document your attorney submits to the government.

Prepared by Surin & Griffin, P.C., Attorneys at Law. 325 Chestnut Street, Suite 1305, Philadelphia, PA 19106. 215 925-4435
 

WHERE CAN I GO TO IMPROVE MY ENGLISH?

The Welcoming Center’s website has an extensive online ESL class list that we update regularly.  Choose the days you are interested in taking English classes, your level of skill, and your zip code to find an appropriate class near you.
 

I AM A PROFESSIONAL IN MY FIELD. WHERE CAN I FIND RESOURCES TO RE-ESTABLISH MY CAREER?

The Welcoming Center regularly holds workshops to help immigrant professionals build their networks and learn the best ways to approach the U.S. job market. Check our section for immigrant professionals or contact Bahiya Cabral-Johnson at 215-557-2868.

HOW DO I FIND MY CONGRESSIONAL REPRESENTATIVE?

It is always good to know the role your congressional representative plays. Sometimes, you can call the congress person whose district you live in to help you with problems you might have with visas or any other issues. Read tips on how to contact your congressional representatives.

If you are eligible to vote in the United States, it is important to vote. Voting allows you to have your voice heard on issues that are important to you.

Congressional Representatives:

1st Congressional District Representative Robert A. Brady

District 1 covers parts of Philadelphia, Yeadon, Darby and Chester.
Email
Homepage

District offices:
1907 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19148-2216
Phone: (215) 389-4627
Fax: (215) 398-4636

The Colony Building
511-13 Welsh Street
Chester, PA 19013-4531
Phone: (610) 874-7094
Fax: (610) 874-7193

2nd Congressional District Representative Chaka Fattah

District 2 covers West Philadelphia, Center City, Northwest Philadelphia, Mt. Airy, Chestnut Hill, East Falls, Germantown, Manayunk, Roxborough, and Cheltenham Township in Montgomery County.
Email
Homepage

District offices:
6632 Germantown Ave.
Philadelphia, PA 19119
Phone: (215) 848-9386

4104 Walnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104-3511
Phone: (215) 387-6404
Fax: (215) 387-6407

6th Congressional District Representative Jim Gerlach

District 6 covers Berks Co. (Part of Reading); Chester Co. (Coatesville) Lehigh Co.; (Dist. 3); Montgomery Co. (some districts)
Email
Homepage

District Offices:
111 East Uwchlan Avenue
Exton, PA 19610
(610) 594-1415

501 North Park Road
Wyomissing, PA 19610
(610) 376-7630

580 Main Street; Suite 4
Trappe, PA 19426
(610) 409-2780

7th Congressional District Representative Patrick Meehan

District 7 covers Delaware County
Homepage

District Offices:
940 Sproul Rd.
Springfield, PA 19064

(610) 892-8623

8th Congressional District Representative Michael G. Fitzpatrick

District 8 covers Bucks County
Homepage

District Offices:
1717 Langhorne-Newtown Rd.
Langhorne, PA 19047
(215) 579-8102

13th Congressional District Representative Allyson Schwartz

District 13 covers parts of Philadelphia and Montgomery Co.
Email
Homepage

District Offices:
7219 Frankford Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19135
(215) 335-3355

706 West Avenue
Jenkintown, PA 19046
(215) 517-6572

15th Congressional District Representative Charles W. Dent

District 15 comprises Lehigh, Northampton, Montgomery & Berks Co's. City of Allentown, Bethlehem, and Easton
Email
Homepage

District Offices:
206 Main Street
East Greenville, PA 18041
(215) 541-4106

701 West Broad Street; Suite 200
Bethlehem, PA 18017
(610) 861-9734

16th Congressional District Representative Joseph R. Pitts

District 16 comprises parts of Berks Co. (some of city of Reading) ; Chester Co. and all of Lancaster County
Homepage

District Offices:
Berks County Services Building
633 Court Street
Reading, PA 19601-4302
(610) 374-3637

Lancaster County Courthouse
50 North Duke Street
Lancaster, PA 17602-2805
(717) 393-0667
 

HOW DO I FIND MY CONSUL?

Citizens or nationals of countries other than the United States may need to contact the consul for their home country for various reasons, such as renewing a passport. For many countries, embassies are located in Washington, D.C., while smaller consulates are located in New York. In a few cases, a consulate is also located in Philadelphia. In other cases, Philadelphia is home to a designated individual known as a consul, or honorary consul, who has the responsibility of representing a particular country and providing information and assistance to citizens of that country. A list of such consuls is below.

Austria
Honorable Harry Carl Schaub
123 S. Broad Street, 24th Floor
Philadelphia, PA 19109
Phone: 215-772-7630
Fax: 215-772-7620
Email

Bulgaria
Honorable Stephen J. McEwen, Jr.
Court House
201 W. Front Street
Media, PA 19063
Phone: 610-565-9191
Fax: 610-565-9385
Email

Canada
Honorable David Weiner
2 Penn Center #200
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Phone: 215-854-6380
Fax: 215-569-0216
Email

Chile
Honorable Benjamin Leavenworth
Public Ledger Building Suite1030
6th & Chestnut Streets
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: 215-829-9520
Fax: 215-829-0594
Email

Czech Republic
Honorable Peter A. Rafaeli
921 Bethlehem Pike, Suite 102
Spring House, PA 19477
Phone: 215-646-7777
Fax: 215-646-7770
Email

Denmark
Honorable Alfred J. Kuffler
123 South Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19109
Phone: 215-772-7292
Fax: 215-772-7620
Email

Dominican Republic
Honorable Wilson A. Diaz
Lafayette Build.437 Chestnut Street, Suite 216
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: 215-923-3006
Fax: 215-923-3007
Email

El Salvador
Honorable Ana Maria de Keene
1527 Montgomery Avenue
Rosemont, PA 19010
Phone: 610-520-1313
Fax: 610-520-9453
Email

Finland
Honorable Bengt O. Jansson
112 Christian Street
Philadelphia, PA 19147
Phone: 215-465-5565
Fax: 215-336-3389
Email

France
Honorable Daniele Thomas Easton
2500 One Liberty Place, 1650 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: 215-851-1474
Fax: 215-851-1420
Email

Germany
Honorable Barbara Afanassiev
1515 Market Street, Suite 706
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Phone: 215-568-5573
Fax: 215-665-0375
Email

Guatemala
Dr. Roberto Rendon Maldonado
1245 Highland Avenue, Suite 301
Abington, PA 19001
Phone: 215-885-5551
Fax: 215-882-6297

Guinea
Honorable Stanley L. Straughter
c/o OIC International, Inc. 240 W. Tulpehocken Street
Philadelphia, PA 19144
Phone: 215-842-0220 ext.106
Fax: 215-849-7033
Email

Haiti
Honorable Albert Momjian
1600 Market Street, Suite 3600
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: 215-751-2516
Fax: 215- 751-2205
Email

Iceland
Honorable Hubert Georges
2015 D. South Point Drive
Hummelstown, PA 17036
Phone: 717-566-7790
Fax: 717-566-7792
Email

Israel
Honorable Uriel Palti
230 S. 15th Street, Suite 8
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Phone: 215-546-5556
Fax: 215-545-3986
Email

Italy
Honorable Lorenzo Mott
Public Ledger Building, Suite 1026, 100 S. 6th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: 215-592-7329
Fax: 215-592-9808
Email

Jamaica
Honorable Alston B. Meade
2014 Valley Drive
West Chester, PA 19382
Phone: 610-436 4877
Fax: 610-436-0795
Email

Japan
Honorable Dennis J. Morikawa
1701 Market Street, 11th floor
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: 215-963-5565
Fax: 215-963 5299
Email

Liberia
Teta V. Banks
Two Penn Center Plaza, Suite 200, 1500 JFK Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Phone: 215-854-6369
Fax: 610-272-5900
Email

Madagascar
Honorable John B. Huffaker, Esq
c/o Pepper, Hamilton LLP, 400 Berwyn Park, 3rd Floor
899 Cassatt Road
Berwyn, PA 19312-1183
Phone: 610-640-7832
Fax: 610-640-7835
Email

Malta
Honorable Sheila G. Parish
941 Bryn Mawr Avenue
Penn Valley, PA 19072
Phone: 610-664-7475

Mexico
Honorable Enrique Ruiz
Bourse Building, Suite 310111, South Independence Mall East
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: 215-625-4897
Fax: 215-923-7281
Email

Moldova
Honorable Richard Astro
582 Brighton Way
Phoenix, PA 19106
Phone: 610-415-0498
Fax: 610-520-1614
Email

Netherlands
Honorable Yvonne J.G. Orova
P.O. Box 8047
Philadelphia, PA 19101
Phone: 610-520-9591
Fax: 610-520 1614
Email

Nicaragua
Honorable Alejandro J. Gallard-Prio
437 Olive Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
Phone: 215-427-2570
Fax: 215-351-9698
Email

Norway
Honorable Erik Torp
1760 Market Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: 215-564-5708
Fax: 215-665-1929
Email

Panama
Honorable Georgia Athanasopulos
124 Chestnut Street, Suite 1
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: 215-574-2994
Fax: 215-625-4876
Email

Portugal
Honorable Carl Marques Santus
7950 Loretto Avenue
Philadelphia, PA 19111
Phone: 215-745-2889
Fax: 215-745-2867
Email

Romania
Honorable George P. Sfedu
1907 Spruce Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: 215-735-7978
Fax: 215-735-9209
Email

Spain
Honorable Herminio Muniz
3410 Warden Drive
Philadelphia, PA 19129
Phone: 215-848-6180

Sweden
Honorable Agneta Hagglund Baily
8 Penn Center, Suite 2001, 1628 JFK Boulevard
Philadelphia, PA 19103
Phone: 215-496-7200
Fax: 215-569-9535
Email

Switzerland
Honorable Franz Joseph Portman
635 Public Ledger Building
Philadelphia, PA 19106
Phone: 215-922-2215
Fax: 215-922-2215
Email

United Kingdom
Honorable Oliver St. Clair Franklin
International House, 3701Chestnut Street
Philadelphia, PA 19104
Phone: 215-777-7665
Fax: 215-557-6608
Email