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F-1 students are not immediately eligible for a Social Security Number (SSN). You will only become eligible for an SSN when you have a job offer to work on-campus, have received Curricular Practical Training (CPT), or have applied for Optional Practical Training (OPT). Once you get an SSN, it stays with you for life.

If you are in F-1 status and become eligible for an SSN (through on-campus job, CPT, or OPT), you will need to apply online and then visit the Social Security Administration (SSA) office in-person to complete the application. You can only apply 30 days before your job starts.


1) If you are applying based on an on-campus job, obtain the SSN letter on your hiring department letterhead, signed with original wet ink signatures from your hiring supervisor and OIA. 

If you are applying based on CPT, you need your updated CPT I-20 and your internship offer letter with an original wet ink signature.

If you are applying based on OPT, you should apply in the I-765 application to USCIS.

2) Complete the SS-5 form online. Answer all questions, for this purpose you are a “Legal Alien Allowed to Work.” Print the last page of the application, which will provide a reference number for your in-person visit. 

3) Bring the following documents to your nearest SSA office promptly after filing out SS-5 online.

  • passport valid 6 months into the future
  • most recent I-94 record
  • your most recent I-20 at minimum, though we recommend taking all I-20s
  • your SSN letter (for on-campus job), job offer letter (for CPT), or EAD card (for OPT)

At the SSA they will give you a receipt notice for your SSN application. You will receive your SSN in the mail within a couple weeks.

You should be able to begin working and get paid prior to getting the SSN, as long as you have filed the proper forms with your employer’s Human Resources department. Then you will report your SSN to the employer when you receive it.

For on-campus jobs, when you receive your SSN you should report it to HR using Virtru to protect your identity. Your SSN should be kept confidential due to identity theft possibilities, so be careful with it.

Make sure to keep your SSN card in a safe place as it stays with you for life. If you lose it, you have to apply to SSA for a replacement card and you have to have a valid job offer to be eligible. Your SSN will stay the same your entire life if you already had one.


Hiring an international student generally requires the same hiring paperwork as a domestic student. If the international student does not have an SSN, the SSN Letter is one extra document needed. 

If your international student new hire needs an SSN, you should complete the SSN letter template, using the student’s legal passport name, and print the letter on letterhead. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will not accept copies, digital signatures, or letters not on official letterhead. The SSA requires a handwritten ink signature from the Hiring Supervisor on the letter. After you sign, an OIA Designated School Official (DSO) must also sign with a handwritten signature. Please deliver the original letter to OIA (Myrtle Hall 2E-5). We have a drop-off envelope on our door, so the letter can be left outside of our office hours. 

After our DSO signs the SSN letter, we will contact the student to pick it up and continue their SSN application