Getting a Social Security Number (SSN)



In this section, we try to address various issues regarding getting a Social Security Number (SSN) for international students. Social Security Number is unique for each person, this number is widely used as an identification number by many US institutions

The following information is for guidance purposes only and we recommend that you check out the Social Security Administration's official website or Social Security Administration's publication for more detailed information.

Related Links
  Things to do after arrival
  Getting a SSN
  Getting a State ID
  Getting a Driver License




What is a Social Security Number (SSN)?

As an International Student, am I eligible to get a Social Security Number?

Process of getting a Social Security Number

Benefits of having a Social Security Number

Tips to secure your Social Security Number

FAQ's

What if I am not qualified to get a Social Security Number?

Can I get a replacement card if I lose my Social Security card?

Where can I find the nearest Social Security Administration office?

Where can I learn more about the Social Security Number?

 

What is a Social Security Number (SSN)?

The Social Security Number is a nine-digit identification number (xxx-xx-xxxx) issued by the Federal Government via its Social Security Administration office to US citizens, US permanent residents, and eligible aliens. The main use of Social Security Number is for tax purposes. However, since Social Security Number is unique for each person, this number is widely used as an identification number by many US institutions.

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As an International Student, am I eligible to get a Social Security Number?

Since the primary use of Social Security Number is for tax purposes, as an international student, you will easily get a Social Security Number if you get a job offer (on-campus or off-campus) in the US or you are receiving a stipend from your University / Professor / Institution. Remember that you are allowed to work on-campus up to 20 hours per week during the regular semester, and 40 hours per week during summer semester.

You just need to bring your job offer letter or a letter from your international student office indicating that you will be working in the US.

Don’t worry if you do not have a job offer yet. You can ask your international student office to write you a letter that you are eligible to work in the US even if currently you don’t have a job.

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Process of getting a Social Security Number

Getting a Social Security Card does not cost you anything (it is free). Below we have outlined the normal process of getting a Social Security Number for international students:

  1. Complete an Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5)

  2. Provide the required documents that prove your Immigration status, Work eligibility, Age, and Identity

  3. Submit the application in the nearest Social Security Administration office. You can search for the nearest office at this link
  4. You will receive a receipt upon submitting your application

  5. Normally, within 3 to 5 weeks, you will receive a Social Security Card in the mail if your application is approved, or a denial letter if your application is rejected.

(Source: ssa.gov, 2007)

For information about documents required for international students (F-1, J-1, M-1 visa) please check out the Social Security Administration's publication at the Social Security Administration's official website.

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Benefits of having a Social Security Number

Since Social Security Number is widely used in the US as an identification number, having a Social Security Number means less hassle in asking for service or conducting business in the US. Most of the times, you will need the Social Security Number when you are opening a new account or subscribing for a service.

Examples of some institutions that need your Social Security Number are: Internal Revenue Service (IRS), Department/Bureau of Motor Vehicle (DMV/BMV), Bank, Credit Card Company, Insurance Company, Telephone / Cell phone Company, Apartment Rental Office, Cable Company, Internet Provider, Electric Company, Public Library, etc.

It means that you don’t always need to appear in person or provide many photo IDs, for example, your passport, every time you want to purchase a service or make a contract.

However, there is a drawback having a Social Security Number as your identification for everything. If the number falls into the hand of an irresponsible person, you might be exposed to identity theft. Therefore, you need to keep your Social Security card safely and securely.

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Tips to secure your Social Security Number

It is very important that you do not share your Social Security Number with anyone else as this can lead to Identity Theft, i.e., someone can use your Social Security Number to perform illegal transactions or activities that will be attributed to you without your knowledge.

Below are some tips that will help you to secure your Social Security Number:
  • Memorize your Social Security Number. The best place to keep your Social Security Number is in your mind.

  • Do not carry around your Social Security Card in your wallet. Instead, keep it in a safe, secure and secret place.

  • Do not give out your Social Security Number to anybody, including your family members or friends, unless it is absolutely necessary. If you are required to do so, don’t hesitate to ask the reason they need your Social Security Number.

  • Beware with on-line transactions. Normally you are not required to give out your Social Security Number. If you are told to do so, be sure that the site is trusted and secured. in some cases, you may have to give the last four digits of your Social Security Number.

  • As a customer, when you are talking with a customer service agent for filing a complaint or for getting some information, avoid telling him / her your Social Security Number. In most cases, the agent will just ask you the last four digits of your Social Security Number.

You can find more tips in this link

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What if I am not qualified to get a Social Security Number?

As an international student, you will be issued a 999 number by your University. This number is also a nine-digit number, but it is not the same as Social Security Number (999-xx-xxxx).

Some institutions, such as banks and credit card companies, are starting to accept the 999 number as your identification number. However, most institutions in the US still require your Social Security Number.

Therefore, if you don’t have a Social Security Number, you would have to show some photo IDs or even appear in person every time you need service from i.e., Electric Company, Telephone Company, etc.

Please note that in case you are denied a Social Security Number, the Social Security Administration office will send you a denial letter. Some times you will need this denial letter in situations such as when you are applying for a driving license.

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Can I get a replacement card if I lose my Social Security card?

Yes, you can get a replacement card if you lose your Social Security card. However, the replacement is limited to three cards in a particular year and a total of ten cards in your lifetime. Please visit this link or this link for more detailed information.

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Where can I find the nearest Social Security Administration office?

You can search for the nearest Social Security Administration office in this link

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Where can I learn more about the Social Security Number?

If you want to learn more about Social Security Number, please visit:

Social Security Administration's official website

More FAQ's

Detailed information for International Students

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