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Social Security Number

A Social Security number (SSN) is a nine-digit number assigned to individuals working in the United States.  This number is used to track earnings by the employer and report wages for tax purposes to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You will often be asked for an SSN number for identification purposes, but this is not the intended purpose of an SSN.

Remember: Having a SSN does NOT give you authorization to work anywhere.  You will still need appropriate work authorization if you will work off campus, such as OPT or CPT.

When conducting official business in the U.S., such as opening a bank account, or applying for a cellular phone you will need three reliable forms of identification, such as your passport, your I-20, and your student I.D. card. You may ask Social Security for a letter to prove you cannot have a number.

SSN Eligibility

To be eligible to receive an SSN:
  • You must have been offered a paid position either on campus, for CPT, or for OPT.
  • You must have an “active” SEVIS record to apply for an SSN.  Make sure that you have completed mandatory Immigration Check In at least 5 days before requesting an SSN Letter.
  • You must be active in the SAVE database, meaning your first entry to the US on your current F-1 record must be more than 5 business days prior to applying for your SSN.
  • You must be maintaining valid F-1 status.

Steps to apply for an SSN:
  1. Request your Social Security Letter from ISSS:
    1. Log in to the ISSS Portal.
    2. Navigate to Tab 4 and select the option for Social Security Letter Request.
    3. Read the information and answer the questions, then click Submit.
    4. ISSS will issue you a letter and will email you when you can download it from the ISSS Portal.
  2. Gather the required documents:
    1. From the Registrar: A copy of your class schedule
    2. From the Registrar: Enrollment Verification
    3. From your Employer: Offer Letter stating your supervisor, nature of your job, including a wet signature
    4. Current I-20
    5. Passport
    6. Visa
    7. I-94
    8. Completed SS-5, Application for Social Security Card
    9. Social Security Letter from ISSS
  3. Make an appointment or walk-in at the SSA location in the area you live.
    1. Bring all the required documents to your appointment with SSA.

Steps at the Social Security Administration
  1. Fill out the SSN application. The administrator will interview you and ask you a few routine questions. They will also make copies of your immigration documents. Make sure that your I-20 and passport are returned to you before you leave the office.
  2. The administrator will give you a receipt of proof that you have applied for the SSN. If you have been offered on-campus employment, you must show this receipt to Human Resources (HR) before beginning employment.
  3. Your Social Security Card will not be given to you immediately. It will be mailed to your address. You may be able to obtain the number by phone after it is assigned.