How Do I get a Social Security Number if I’m an international student?

Updated on October 17, 2023

If you are an international student traveling to the United States you might need to get an SSN, Social Security Number. An SSN is a unique number that is used to let the government know who is working in the country. This can later be used to decide who is entitled to social security benefits. If you are planning to work while you are studying you will need to get your own SSN. In this article we will tell you everything you need to know about applying for an SSN.

When can I get an SSN? You will not be able to get an SSN before you arrive in the United States. Once you arrive, you will need to have been in the country for at least ten days and registered and enrolled in your university before you will be able to apply. You will only need an SSN if you are planning to work so you can not apply unless you have been offered a job and been cleared to work by the International Students Office in your university and, in some cases, the USCIS.

How do I get it? To get your SSN you will need to go to your local Social Security Administration. Here you will need to fill oun an SS-5 form. You will need to bring identification that includes your name, date of birth and any other identifying information. Your identification should also include a recent photograph of you. You will also need to bring documentation to prove that you are authorized to work and explain your current immigration status, you can do this by bringing your I-94, I-20, DS-2019, I-551 or I-766.

Do I need to prove work eligibility? You are not entitled to get an SSN unless you have been offered a job so you will need to bring proof of this with you when you go to the Social Security Administration. If you are an F1 visa holder and planning to work on campus you will need to bring a letter from your school’s office that identifies you, explains your current student status and gives details of the job you will be doing. You also need to bring a letter of employment that gives your start date, the number of hours you will be working and your supervisor’s contact details. If you are taking part in CPT, you will need to bring your I-20 form with the employment section filled in by your school’s office. If you are in possession of an M1 or J1 visa you should consult the International Students Office about work eligibility.

Once you have completed your SSN application your SSN will be processed and you should receive it in the post within two weeks. You do not need your SSN to start work but you will need it to report your earnings and pay your taxes.

Have you had any experience applying for an SSN as an international student? Do you have any advice for someone who is thinking of applying for an SSN? Let us know in our comments section.

About Stilt:

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Frank Gogol

I’m a firm believer that information is the key to financial freedom. On the Stilt Blog, I write about the complex topics — like finance, immigration, and technology — to help immigrants make the most of their lives in the U.S. Our content and brand have been featured in Forbes, TechCrunch, VentureBeat, and more.