Social Security numbers are generally assigned to people who are authorized to work in the United States. These numbers are used to report an individual’s wages to the government and to determine eligibility for Social Security benefits. Social Security will not assign a number just to enroll in a college or school.
In general, only non-citizens who have permission from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to work can apply for a Social Security number. You are not required to have a Social Security number before you start to work. However, the Internal Revenue Service requires employers to report wages using a Social Security number. While you wait for your Social Security number, your employer can use a letter from Social Security stating that you applied for a number. Your employer may use your immigration documents as proof of your authorization to work in the United States. In order to obtain a Social Security number, if authorized, students will need to:
- Complete an Application for A Social Security Card (Form SS-5); and
- Provide original documents proving:
- Immigration status
- Work eligibility
To prove your immigration status, you must show the current
U.S. immigration document, I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, issued to you when you arrived in the
United States. If you are an F-1 or M-1 student, you must show your I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. If you are a J-1 or J-2 exchange visitor, you must show your DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status.
If you are an F-1 student and eligible to work on campus, you must provide a letter from the Dean of Student Life identifying you and confirming your current school status, and identifying your campus employer and the type of work you will be doing. You will also need a letter from the office/department you will be working for indicating:
- Your job;
- Your employment start date;
- The number of hours you will be working; and
- Your supervisor’s name and telephone number.
If you are an F-1 student authorized to work in curricular practical training, you must provide your Form I-20 with the employment page completed and signed by the Dean of Student Life.
If you are an F-1 student and are authorized to work off campus, you must provide the Employment Authorization Document (I-766) you received from DHS.
If you are a J-1 student, you must provide a letter from your sponsor. The letter should be on sponsor letterhead with an original signature that authorizes your employment.
You must present your birth certificate if you have it or can easily obtain it. If not, you can use other documents, such as your passport or a document issued by DHS, to prove your age.
Only certain documents are acceptable as proof of identity. An acceptable document must be current (not expired) and show your name, identifying information and preferably a recent photograph. Social Security will ask to see your current U.S. immigration documents. Acceptable immigration documents include your:
- Form I-551 (includes machine-readable immigrant visa with your unexpired foreign passport);
- I-94 with your unexpired foreign passport; or
- Work permit card from DHS (I-766).
Photocopies, notarized copies, or receipts showing prior application will not be accepted. One document may be used for two purposes. For example, your DHS work permit may serve as proof of work eligibility and identity. However, you must provide at least two separate documents.