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Social Security Number

A Social Security number (SSN) is issued to track earnings over a worker’s lifetime. Students holding F-1 and J-1 status who are employed in the U.S. must apply for a Social Security number. Dependents in F-2 status are not eligible for a Social Security number. (Students who will not work on campus but who receive a taxable scholarship can apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) for tax purposes).

In order to issue a Social Security number, the Social Security Administration requires evidence that you are eligible to work in the U.S.  A Social Security number is not required to obtain a driver’s license, cell phone, credit card, insurance, admission to an academic institution or other “non-work” reasons. The Social Security Administration must also verify your immigration documents and status with Immigration before issuing the Social Security number. Note that new students may not apply for an SSN earlier than 10 business days after arriving in the U.S. The Social Security number itself is not a work permit.

A SSN is issued once per lifetime.  If you have previously had a SSN, but do not have the card or do not remember the number, you can apply for a duplicate card if you meet the eligibility requirements above.

Who is eligible to apply for a Social Security Number?
  • F-1 students with a job offer letter and/or work permission
  • J-1 students with a job offer and a work permission from their DS-2019 sponsor
  • J-1 visiting scholars
  • J-2 dependents with work permission from the USCIS (EAD)
  • Individuals with other types of immigration status allowing employment
Note: F-2 dependents are not eligible for Social Security Numbers

F-1 and J-1 Students
  • New students must wait at least 10 days after being registered full-time and after the first day of classes (both must be true)
  • Registered students can apply no more than 30 days before:
    • F-1 On-campus employment start date on the offer letter
    • F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT) start date on their I-20
    • J-1 On-campus employment start date on the J-1 On-Campus Authorization Form
  • Students on post-completion training can apply no earlier than:
    • F-1 Optional Practical Training (OPT) start date on their Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
    • J-1 30 days before the Academic Training start date on their DS-2019
J-1 Scholars
New J-1 visiting scholars must wait at least ten business days after entering the U.S and attending the scholar orientation (both must be true).

J-2 Dependents
J-2 dependents must have Employment Authorization Document (EAD), and can apply for the SSN no earlier than the start date of the EAD.  

Working While Waiting for your SSN
You may work while the Social Security number application is being processed.  However, you must have employment authorization from your program sponsor or the USCIS before you begin working.

Social Security Number Safety
Although a SSN is only meant to be used for tax and government purposes, it is often used by financial institutions, businesses, and others as a unique identification number. Because the SSN is a unique ID, it is often the target of “identity theft”. Therefore you should be very careful about where and to whom you give your SSN.
  • Never carry your Social Security card or number with you. Keep it at home in a secure place.
  • Only give your SSN to someone who has a specific and legitimate need for it.
  • Be very careful with any forms, applications or other materials that may have your SSN on it.
  • Never give your SSN to someone who phones you. You should initiate the call or meet in person.
  • Never reply to email or web sites that request a SSN.

Note: If you have already started a request, do not start a new request. Please go to your User Home Page to continue working on your request.