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.
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.
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
their DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status.
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
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
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.
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
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.