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.
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.
Social Security Administration will not assign a number to you just for the purpose of enrolling in a college or school.
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 need 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:
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:
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 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.
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:
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.
There is no fee for the application to obtain a social security number or card.
Social Security Administration will send your SSN and card in the mail as soon as your application has been approved.
This usually takes 2 to 4 weeks, but can sometimes take longer.
If your card is lost or stolen you should report this to Social Security Administration immediately. You can request a replacement for free. You can do this up to 3 times in one year or 10 times in your lifetime without a fee.
In order to request a replacement card you would need to complete the application form, SS-5, and present your supporting documentation,
ID etc again.
If your immigration status changes or if you become a legal permanent resident (LPR), you would need to inform the Social Security Administration office.
You would need to present supporting documents that prove your new status.
Your earnings from authorized employment are generally not taxable for social security purposes if you are a student with F-1 or J-1 visa.
However, please refer to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for details about employment taxes payable on the earnings of nonresident aliens.
No, you can begin work while your application is being processed as long as you have authorization for on-campus work, CPT, or OPT, but your
employer must ensure that they follow the correct procedures when doing so.
You can find the contact details for SSA at www.socialsecurity.gov.