SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER (SSN) ELIGIBILITY
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.
HOW TO APPLY FOR SSN
1) If you are applying based on an on-campus job, obtain the SSN letter on 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 job offer letter with wet ink signature.
If you are applying based on OPT, you would need your EAD card, though it is likely you already applied during your I-765 submission.
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)
AFTER YOU APPLY FOR SSN
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.
In general, 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 them 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.