Table of Contents

Social Security Number

🗣️This blog is a word-to-word copy of a PDF document from the Social Security Administration. We have made some comments on it to help an international student navigate the process better. All our comments are in italics&bold. If you want to access the original documents, you can download them from here

Are you temporarily in the United States to attend a college, language, vocational, or nonacademic school with a nonimmigrant F-1, M-1, or J-1 student classification? Your school may ask you for your Social Security number. 

Some colleges and schools use Social Security numbers as student identification numbers. If you do not have a Social Security number, the college or school should give you another identification number.

Social Security numbers generally are assigned to people who are authorized to work in the United States. Social Security numbers are used to report your wages to the government and determine eligibility for Social Security benefits. Social Security will not assign a number to you to enroll in a college or school.

If you want to get a job on campus, you should contact your designated school official for international students.

🗣️Your designated school official’s (DSO) name will be on your I-20. 

This official can tell you if you’re eligible to work on campus and give you information about available jobs. Also, your school may approve particular limited off-campus employment, as permitted under the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations. Suppose your school has authorized you to work either on or off-campus, and you meet Social Security’s eligibility requirements described in the next section. In that case, you can get a Social Security number.

🗣️There are usually portal on school websites where people can look up on campus jobs.

Only noncitizens who have the DHS’s permission to work can apply for a Social Security number. We suggest you wait 48 hours after reporting to your school before applying for a Social Security number. This waiting will help ensure we can verify your immigration status with the DHS.

To apply for a Social Security number at your local Social Security office:

  • Complete an Application for a Social Security
  • card (SS-5); and
  • Show us documents proving your:
    • Work-authorized immigration status
    • Age
    • Identity

Immigration status

To prove your immigration status, you must show us a current admission stamp in your unexpired foreign passport and Arrival/ Departure Record (Form I-94), if available.

If you’re an F-1 or M-1 student, you must also show us your Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status (Form I-20). If you’re a J-1 exchange visitor, you must show us your Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status (Form DS-2019).

🗣️You can access your I-94 from this website. You can only access the I-94 once you are already in the United States. 

Work eligibility

If you’re an F-1 student and eligible to work on campus, you must provide a letter from your designated school official that:

  • Identifies you;
  • Confirms your current school status; and
  • Identifies your employer and the type of work you are or will be, doing.

We also need to see evidence of that employment, such as a recent payslip or a letter from your employer. Your supervisor must sign and date the employment letter. This letter must describe:

  • Your job;
  • Your employment start date;
  • The number of hours you are or will be working and
  • Your supervisor’s name and telephone number.

If you’re an F-1 student authorized to work in curricular practical training (CPT), you must please provide us with Form I-20 with the employment page completed and signed by your school’s designated official.

International Students and Social Security Numbers

If you’re an F-1 or M-1 student and have a work permit (Form I-766) from the DHS, you must present it.

If you’re a J-1 student, student intern, or international visitor, you must provide a letter from your sponsor. The letter should be on sponsor letterhead with an original signature that authorizes your employment.

We cannot process your application if:

  • Your on-campus or CPT work begins more than 30 days from your application date; or
  • The employment start date on your work permit from the DHS (Form I-766) is a future date.

Age

You must present your foreign birth certificate if you have it or get it within ten business days. If you can’t present your foreign birth certificate, we can consider other documents, such as your passport or a document issued by the DHS, as evidence of your age.

Identity

We can only accept certain documents as proof of identity. An acceptable document must be current (not expired) and show your name, identifying information, and preferably, a recent photograph. Social Security will ask to see your current unexpired foreign passport with DHS-issued immigration documents.

All documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. We cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. We also cannot acknowledge a receipt showing you applied for the document. We may use one document for two purposes. For example, we may use your admission stamp in the unexpired foreign passport to prove both work eligibility and identity.

We don’t require you to have a Social Security number before you start work. However, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires employers to report wages using a Social Security number. While you wait for your Social Security number, your employer can use a letter from us stating that you applied for a number. Your employer may use your immigration documents as proof of your authorization to work in the United States. Employers can find more information on the Internet at www.socialsecurity.gov/employer/hiring.htm.

Contacting Social Security

The most convenient way to contact us anytime, anywhere is to visit www.socialsecurity.gov. There, you can: apply for benefits; open my Social Security account, which you can use to review your Social Security Statement, verify your earnings, print a benefit verification letter, change your direct deposit information, request a replacement Medicare card, and get a replacement SSA-1099/1042S; obtain valuable information; find publications; get answers to frequently asked questions; and much more. If you don’t have access to the Internet, we offer many automated services by telephone, Twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. Call us toll-free at 1-800-772-1213 or our TTY number, 1-800-325-0778, if you’re deaf or hard of hearing.

If you need to speak to a person, we can answer your calls from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. We ask for your patience during busy periods since you may experience a higher than usual rate of busy signals and longer hold times to speak to us. We look forward to serving you.

🗣️Watch out for the scams. There are tonnes of social security scams that happen every day. Our closest friends have lost up to $10,000 due to the cons. People call you saying that your SSN has been compromised or that you owe taxes, etc. The administration of Social Security or IRS (Internal Revenue Service) will never call you. They will always send you a document stating the issue at your place. It’s never going to be through a phone call or an email.