Social Security

Purpose of a Social Security Number

A Social Security Number (SSN) is a 9-digit employee identification number issued by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and non-immigrants who qualify based on lawful status and legal employment. A Social Security number is necessary only for reporting employment and tax information. 

An SSN does NOT grant you permission to work or permanent residency. But you must have an SSN if you are working in the U.S.  Once you obtain an SSN it is your number forever and may be used on subsequent visits to the U.S.


As an F-1 student, you are eligible for an SSN only if you have evidence of lawful employment authorization, such as on-campus employment or CPT employment authorization. 

If you have not secured lawful F-1 employment, you are not eligible to apply for an SSN. 

Application Process

If you obtain on-campus employment and you do not have a Social Security Number, you will need to apply for one. To apply for an SSN based on your on-campus employment:

  1. Ask your supervisor/hiring department to complete this Social Security Administration Application Form
  2. Submit the completed Application Form via the SSN On-Campus Documents Request
  3. We will contact you via email when your documents are ready to be picked up
  4. Take your documents from OIS, as well as your Passport, F-1 visa, I-20, and most recent I-94, to the Social Security Office
  5. Use this website to find a Social Security Office near you:

If you have been approved for CPT (you received a New I-20 with CPT employment authorization) and you do not have an SSN, email to request your SSN Documents (specify the campus, LC or RH, where you'd like to pick up the documents). 

Employment and Taxes

A Social Security number is used by employers and employees to report on individual employees' earnings for tax purposes.  F-1 students are exempt from Social Security (FICA) withholdings from income earned through authorized employment for the first five years in F-1 status. When you complete your W-4 form to start employment, you indicate in large letters across the top of the form that you are exempt from FICA.  International students must pay all other local, state, and federal taxes unless there is an applicable treaty signed between the United States and your country of citizenship. Tax Treaty Bulletins are available in the library and the Office of International Students during tax season.

Social Security numbers are often used to check your credit history for a variety of other purposes unrelated to its official purpose such as opening bank accounts, leasing an apartment, or obtaining cell phone services. If you have difficulty opening a bank account or other services because you do not have an SSN, please contact for assistance.