No matter if you want to open an account, apply for a job, enroll in medicare or rent a house, you need to give proof of this nine-digit number. So basically first thing you need to do when arriving in the U.S. is to find your closest social security office location, which in our case was in the north of the city.
Plan your visit ahead
Be aware that you need to thoroughly plan your trip to the office in order to avoid an unpleasant and time consuming second trip. This of course happened to me because I did not bring along all the necessary documents in the correct format (..aarrrghh!). So here is what you need:
#1 Looooots of time. Even when you manage to be there when they open the doors, there are most probably already 100 parties ahead of you, so waiting for 2-4 hours is not a rarity at all. I was told that the best time to arrive is shortly before they close, because then the least people are waiting and once you are in, your ticket will still be processed even after they've closed the doors.
#2 If you do not intend to get bored to death, bring a book or any other type of entertainment. You are not allowed to bring any food and drinks inside, but I strongly advise to leave some in your car as you are allowed to exit and reenter.
#3 Bring a warm sweater or scarf. For incomprehensible reasons it feels like in a Siberian desert in the waiting room (even in summer) which makes it unbearable to stay in there for more than 20 minutes. Luckily you can always go outside to catch some sun rays because you will get a ticket with your personal number upon arrival. You can keep track of the ticket numbers on the various screens in the waiting room.
#4 Which leads me to my next advice. When your number comes closer, don't rely on the screens only, as they often are far behind. Listen to the loudspeakers. They only repeat once your number before moving on to the next ticket number (and believe me when I say that they will show no mercy at all even if you explain them in tears with a crying baby on your arms that you have been waiting for four hours!).
#5 Bring all the necessary documents in the correct format (from persosnal experience I can assure you that they won't accept anything else than original documents, so pack your "Familienbüchlein" when moving from Switzerland to the US)!