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

SSN Application Based on On-Campus Employment:

  1. 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 a Social Security Number based on your on-campus employment follow the steps below:


    Step 1. F-1 Students: you must work with your hiring department to complete the On Campus Employment SSN Request Form and submit it via our SSN Online Request Portal.

    (If you are a J-1 student, please submit the J-1 SSA Application Form to the Portal instead)

    Step 2. OIS will contact you regarding the pickup of a support letter that you must take to the Social Security Office -- Social Security has informed us that letters must contain our original signature, and cannot be scanned copies.

    Step 3. Take the original Request Form (signed by your supervisor), the OIS support letter, your passport, I-20, and I-94 to the Social Security Office


    Finding an SSA Office: You can use this website to locate a Social Security Card Center near you:

    Make sure to input your ZIP code and select "I need Card Services"

    Usually, Social Security requires you to apply at the office closest to your local address.


NEW - Social Security Administration now allows you to schedule your appointment online in advance! After you have collected your documents, please visit the following site to schedule your appointment:


SSN Application Based on Off-Campus Employment:

  1. Receive New I-20 Reflecting CPT Employment Authorization
  2. Bring the following documents to the Social Security Office:
    1. (1) Valid passport, (2) F-1 visa, (3) Form I-20 reflecting CPT authorization, (4) employment offer letter, and (5) your I-94 record. Your I-94 can be obtained at (Select “GET MOST RECENT I-94”).
  3. Use this website to find a Social Security Office near you:



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 [email protected] for assistance.