Social Security Numbers and International Student Loans

Many international students who choose to study in the United States will look into obtaining student loans to help fund their studies. If this is the case with you, you may find that some lenders require that you have a Social Security Number (SSN) in order to apply (and other lenders may not). SSNs are assigned to people who are authorized to work in the United States, and are used to report your wages to the government and to determine eligibility for Social Security benefits.

If you are paid in the United States, you must have an SSN in order to file an income tax return. If you are an F-1 or J-1 visa-holding student, you and your dependents are required to file at least one tax form, even if you have not worked in the US.

Eligibility to Apply for a Social Security Number

Only students who have enrolled and registered for classes are able to apply for an SSN. You will not be able to apply for an SSN before you've begun your classes. You are also only able to apply for an SSN if you are employed or have a job offer in the US. You must be in the United States for at least 10 days and be registered for classes before you can apply. You must also be authorized to work in the US by your school, either on or off campus.

Necessary Documents

To apply for an SSN, you must apply in person at a nearby office of the Social Security Administration. You will have to complete and Application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5). You should bring with you original documents proving your work-authorized immigration status, age, and identity.

Immigration Status

In order to prove your immigration status, you will need the current US immigration document, I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, that was issued to you when you arrived in the United States. F-1 and M-1 visa-holding students will also need their I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status document. J-1 exchange visitors will need their DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status.

Work Eligibility

If you are an F-1 visa-holding student and you are eligible to work on campus, you will need to bring a letter from your designated school official that:

  • Identifies you
  • Confirms your current student status
  • Identifies your employer and the work you are—or will be—doing

You will also need evidence of employment. This might be a recent pay slip or a letter from your employer. It must be signed and dated, and must include:

  • Your job
  • Your employment start date
  • The number of hours you work (or will be working)
  • Your supervisor's name and telephone number

If you are an F-1 visa-holding student and you are authorized to work in curricular practical training (CPT), you will need to bring your Form I-20 with the employment page completed and signed by your school's designated official.

If you are an F-1 or M-1 visa-holding student with a work permit (Form I-766) from DHS, you will need to bring it with you.

If you are a J-1 student, student intern, or international visitor, you will need a letter from your sponsor on sponsor letterhead with an original signature that authorizes your employment.

Identity

You will need to present certain documents as proof of your identity. The document you use must be current (not expired) and include your name, identifying information, and (preferably) a recent photo. Social Security will ask to see your current U.S. immigration documents. Acceptable documents include:

  • Form I-551 (includes machine-readable immigrant visa with your unexpired foreign passport)
  • Form I-94 with your unexpired foreign passport
  • Form 1-766 (work permit from DHS)

All documents used to apply for an SSN must be originals. You do not need an SSN in order to begin working in the US, but you are required to report your wages using an SSN.

Watch videos and learn more with our International Financial Aid Resources center

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