Skip to main content

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 on the basis of lawful status and legal employment. It is used for reporting income and record seeking purpose.

Employment and Taxes

A Social Security number is used by employers and employees for the purpose of reporting on individual employee's 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.  While having a Social Security number is convenient for these reasons it has become harder to obtain one due to restrictions on its issuance. A Social Security number is necessary only for reporting employment and tax information. If you have difficulty opening a bank account or other services because you do not have a Social Security number, please contact The Office of International Students for assistance.

Eligibility for a Social Security Number

F-1 or J-1 students who are authorized for employment are eligible to apply for Social Security number: students who have On-campus employment, CPT, OPT, or academic training.

A Social Security number does not grant you permission to work, citizenship or permanent residency. But you must have a Social Security number if you are working in the U.S.  Once you obtain a Social Security number it is your number forever and may be used on subsequent visits to the U.S.

If you have an on campus employment offer, come to The Office of International Students for instructions on how to apply for a Social Security number.

Application Process

On-Campus Employment

If you have on-campus employment, you need to bring: Social Security letter issued by OIS, I-20, I-94 record and passport to apply for a social security number.

Please follow the steps to receive the Social Security letter issued by OIS:

  1. If you are a student who has received on-campus work, and you need to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN), you should have the Social Security Form completed by your supervisor/the person responsible for hiring you. Students working for GSAS' Department must contact the GSAS Department directly to use their SSN Form. 
  2. Submit the completed and signed form via the Social Security (SSN) On-Campus Employment Document Submission Portal.
  3. OIS reviews the submitted form, signs the form, and issues a Social Security letter to be used to apply for your SSN.
  4. Once it is processed, you can take the completed form to the Social Security Administration to apply for your SSN.

Off-Campus Employment

If you have off-campus employment, you need to bring: I-20, I-94 record, passport, and EAD Card (if you are under OPT) to apply for a social security number.

New 2020 Social Security Administration (SSA) Guidance

Updated November 30, 2020

The current update from the Social Security Administration (SSA) is as follows:  

"I need help with my Social Security Number (SSN).

We are prioritizing requests for in-person SSN services for:

  • Individuals age 12 or older applying for their first SSN card.
  • Individuals who need to update or correct their SSN information (such as your name, date of birth, or citizenship) to obtain income, resources, or medical care or coverage, or other services or benefits (for example filing a tax return, applying for housing, or seeking an Economic Impact Payment).

If you believe you qualify for an in-person appointment, call your local office. You can look up the phone number for your local office by accessing our office locator. Please note that appointments may not be immediately available, depending on local health and safety conditions and staffing.

Remember, if the student is a U.S. citizen, wishes to apply for a replacement Social Security Number card, and has state-issued ID, like a driver license, he or she may be able to do so through my Social Security, at www.ssa.gov/myaccount

A foreign student who wishes to apply for a Social Security Number, should:

  • make sure that he or she has the appropriate documentation, which appears on our information page at www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/, and How To Get A New, Replacement Or Corrected Card section, 1, Learn what documents you need, and 2, Fill out and print an application, and
  • call his or her local Social Security office to arrange for an appointment.  Foreign students who live or receive mail in Manhattan, Bronx, Brooklyn, or Queens should call their local Social Security Card Center:
    • Manhattan (1-866-657-3406)
    • Bronx (1-888-864-9788)
    • Brooklyn (1-866-331-6405)
    • Queens (1-888-281-2471)

All other foreign students, including those who live or receive mail on Staten Island, should call their local Social Security office. You can look up the phone number for your local office by accessing our office locator."

If you live in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens, you can utilize the following Social Security Card centers to apply for a SSN:

  • 154 Pierrepont Street, Sixth Floor, Brooklyn, NY 11201
  • 155-10 Jamaica Avenue, Second Floor, Jamaica, NY 11432
  • 820 Concourse Village West, Second Floor, Bronx, NY 10451
  • 123 William Street, Third Floor, New York, NY 10038

If you live in New Jersey or elsewhere, please use the Social Security Office Locator to find the center where you should apply.

It takes about 2-4 weeks to get your card in your mail after you have submitted application. But due to concerns regarding national security and identity theft, the Social Security Administration has become more strict in its application policies. Applications from all nonimmigrants, including F-1 and J-1 students, must now be verified by the Department of Homeland Security. These measures are expected to increase average processing times.

Once you have submitted your application, you can inquire about its status by go to Social Security Administration website contact page. Contact our office if you have any questions.