I am a graduate student on a J-1 visa and my wife and foreign-born children are both J-2s. Is it possible to get Social Security Numbers for my J-2 children so that we can enter them as dependents on a family tax return and thus benefit from childcare-related tax breaks and benefits like the EITC / newly expanded Child Tax Credit that require children to have SSNs? (My wife and I are resident aliens so we are otherwise eligible for these tax benefits.)
Someone suggested to me that we could apply to USCIS for employment authorization for my children (who are technically J-2 dependents) and get SSNs for them in this way, but one is a toddler and the other is a preschooler, so work authorization sounds a bit absurd... Technically, both J-2 spouses and children are eligible for an Employment Authorization Document, but is there any lower age limit? In law or in practice? The applications are pretty expensive and take many months to get approved, so I'm reluctant to go that route without knowing that others have actually successfully gotten work authorization (and thus SSNs) for their young children... I don't want these applications to get rejected.
Let me also note that for the older child we got an ITIN in the past and had her as a dependent on our 2020 tax return with an ITIN, but the benefits are much worse with an ITIN than with a SSN... And for the younger one we have no U.S. number for the moment. So I filed for an extension on my 2021 taxes until this is clarified.
We are not trying to game the system in any way. We are paying taxes like any U.S. citizen, and should also be entitled to the same childcare tax breaks. We are currently not eligible for them only because our children were born outside the U.S., and that's frustrating.
Any tips will be highly appreciated!
@user102008, you provided an excellent reply to a thread that appeared related, I wonder what you'd think about my case.
UPDATE: I am happy to report that I followed the advice below, applied for EADs for my children (one of them a toddler) and - as weird as this might sound - I did get work authorization cards for them, and soon afterwards their SSNs! I have since been able to use these SSNs to claim child-related tax benefits available to other working families in the U.S. :-)
I did not have any problems obtaining these; no questions from USCIS etc. The only thing that was a little tricky was how to formulate the letter that one ordinarily needs to attach to the application, explaining how any income from the applicant's work will not be used to support the J-1 visa holder. In this case, this wording wouldn't make sense as obviously I did not intend for my children to work. So I wrote something very general to the effect that the costs of my and my family's stay in the U.S. can be covered from my own funds, as certified by the university's DS-2019 form (which is true.) This was apparently good enough.