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How to get an SSN for International Students

How to get an SSN for International Students

How to get an SSN for International Students

This article gives you a step-by-step guide on how to get an SSN for international Students. An SSN stands for Social Security Number, which is mainly used by the U.S government to track your earnings and some other things. You will most likely need to apply for an SSN if you want a job in the U.S, even if it is just a part-time job. Certain documents need to be provided like an identification card/ passport, proof of employment letter, etc. 

The U.S has several International Students and they might be required to have an SSN. There are certain steps to take when you are an international student and want to apply for a Social Security Number. This article goes to the process step by step on How to get an SSN for International Students. When you first hear about it you might wonder about the purpose of having an SSN or what an SSN is. This article will fill you in about all these questions and other questions you may have. 

What is an SSN?

An SSN stands for Social Security Number. An SSC is a 9-digit number that has been used as an identification card. The U.S issues it as an employee identification number. It is for people who have permission to work in the US People who are eligible to receive an SSN include U.S citizens, permanent residence, qualified foreign nationals, students in F – 1 OR J – 1 student visa. The SSN tracks the earnings of a worker for a lifetime. The SSN is not considered a work permit. 

Why do you need a Social Security Number? 

Usually, when you get a new job your employer asks you to get a Social Security Number. You must get an SSN before you start working, as the company will have to report your income to the U.S government. The U.S government for tax and employment reporting purposes mainly requires an SSN. Besides its official purpose, there are more conveniences you experience if you have an SSN. You may need an SSN when:

  • Applying for Public Assistance – This to ensure that individuals do not get the benefits of the system to which they are not entitled to. 
  • Applying for a Passport – If you apply for a U.S passport without a Social Security Number expect delays or rejections of your applications. 
  • Enrolling Medicare – Medicare is associated with the Social Security Administration, therefore an SSN is required. 
  • Opening an account with a Financial Institute – All banks in the U.S will require an SSN, they use it to check your credit, report your interests, investment income, losses, tax-deductible montage interest. 
  • Applying for a Federal Loan – The Social Security Number will be used to check if you are eligible for the loan. 
  • Getting a driver’s License – An SSN makes it easier when you are getting a driver’s license. 


You must meet the criteria when you are applying for an SSN. As an international student, you may wonder if it was possible to an SSN. Yes, you can apply for it. To apply for an SSN you have to have a job, however, even an on-campus job makes you eligible for an SSN. 

Here are the basic points you need to match to be eligible for a Social Security Number.

  • Proof that you are eligible to work in the U.S 
  • You must be a full – time student in the U.S
  • Have received a formal offer of on-campus employment or are authorized to work off-campus through Academic Training or Curricular Practical Training. 
  • Verify immigration documents and status

What are the requirements to get an SSN?

As a non-citizen of the U.S, you will need to present documents to the Social Security Office. The documents you need to provide are:

  • Unexpired foreign passport
  • FORM I-551 – immigrant visa/permanent resident card
  • Admission stamp – shows that you have permission to work 
  • Form I – 94 – Arrival or departure record 


  • Form I – 766 – Employment Authorization Documented (EAD) 
  • Foreign Birth Certificate – evidence of age 
  • Form SS- 5 – Application form, which you can find in the Social Security Office or their Official Website. 

Additional document for J- 1, student intern, or international visitor

  • You must provide a letter from your sponsor with an original signature that allows employment. 

Additional document for M- 1 or F – 1 student 

  • Form I – 20 – certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status or Designated School Official Letter (DSO). 

How to get an SSN in for International Student 

As an international student, the procedure of applying for a Social Security Number is a bit different. It may seem complicated so here is a step-by-step guide on how to get an SSN in for International Student. Noted that some procedures may differ depending on your immigration status. 

F – 1 student

An F – 1 visa is a visa that allows you to enter the U.S as a full-time student at an accredited college, university, high school, elementary school, or other educational institutes. 

  1. Collect the following documents:
  • Evidence of employment 
  • Valid F – 1 employment authorization 
  • On–campus employment – request a letter from a TC department to confirm that you can have an on-campus job. Make sure the employment letter is printed with department letterhead and signed by your hiring department. 
  • The letter must include 
    • Estimated start date
    • Estimated number of hours per week
    • Supervisor’s title and contact number 
  • Curricular Practical Training – Get a Form I – 20 from TC, which proves that you have been authorized for F-1 Curricular Practical Training. (Employment-based on academia)
  • Off-campus Employment – obtain a valid EAD from the U.S Citizenship and Immigration Services authorizing you to work under F – 1 international organization employment or economic hardship employment. 
  • Request OISS for an SSN letter – bring your TC department letter to OISS, which will issue a second letter that authorizes you to work on – campus and also that you are a full-time student with a decent standing. This is not required from practical training or off-campus jobs. 
  • Go to the Social Security Office to apply for your SSN. 
  • Make sure you bring the following documents :
  • Form I-20
  • Unexpired passport
  • I-94 card or electronic I-94
  • On-campus letter – employment letters from your on-campus employer OISI-20 – this is for CPT ( Curricular Practical Training)
  • EAD For OPT: you must also bring your unexpired Employment Authorization (EAD) card.

J – 1 student

J – 1 visa is a visa that permits you to enter the U.S as a research scholar, professor or individual from an exchange program. 

  1. Request for an SSN and submit the TC or CU letter to the OISS. The OISS will give you a second letter. 
  •  Must provide evidence of authorized employment. 
  • If IE, LASPAU, or AMIDEAST sponsors you must request an authorization letter from them. 
  • Visit a Social Security to apply for an SSN. 
  • Go to the Social Security Office to apply for your SSN. 

Make sure you bring the following documents:

  • Form DS-2019
  • Valid, unexpired passport
  • I-94 card or electronic I-94
  • Letter from the OIS (and your external J-1 sponsor, if applicable)

After submitting all the documents the SSA examiner will review the documents of your application. 

Frequently asked Questions 

When to apply for an SSN?

It is recommended that you apply after 10 days of your arrival in the U.S. 

You should not apply any earlier than 30 days before your employment start date. 

See Also
Top 10 Universities in Washington D.C.

What is the cost of applying for a Social Security Number? 

Applying for a Social Security Number or a Social Security Card is free of cost. 

When will my Social Security Number expire?

Your social Security Number will not expire. 

How long does it take to receive an SSN?

It takes around 2 – 4 weeks to receive an SSN after application. 

In conclusion, you will need to apply for a Social Security Number to do a job, which includes internships and a part-time job. This article talks about how to get an SSN for International Students. A proper guide for international students who are not sure of certain things related to SSN. 

N.B : this is not a legal advice. Please talk to your dso officer/ university first before taking decision. this article just for information purpose

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Disclaimer: This blog is just for information purpose only. Not legal advice. Talk to your designated officer or lawyer if you have a question.

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