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Social Security Number

The following questions and answers from Social Security Administration are provided to assist in applying for a Social Security number.

What is a Social Security number (SSN) and card? Do I need to get a SSN?

A Social Security number (SSN) is a type of identification number used for Social Security. It is a nine digit number resembling “123-00-1234” which is issued to an individual by the United States Federal Government. An SSN is intended to accurately record the earnings of the individual to whom it is issued. SSNs also function as a general identification number in many situations. The identification number (SSN) assigned to the individual is then issued to the individual on a card. This card is referred to as the “Social Security card.”

As a student or an exchange visitor, you may need an SSN and card if you plan to work in the United States. Your sponsor or third party placement organization may require it for payroll records.
Recent provisions in U.S. law have changed the rules for assigning a SSN and issuing a Social Security card. Also, see Foreign Workers and Social Security Numbers at

What if I am ineligible for a SSN?

If the nonimmigrant is ineligible for an SSN, he or she can receive a decision letter stating that ineligibility.

How do I apply for a Social Security number?

To apply for a Social Security number (SSN), you must:

  • Be employed.
  • Wait at least 10 days from your arrival date in the United States before applying for your SSN. Doing this helps ensure that the Social Security Administration (SSA) can verify your immigration information with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
  • Complete an Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5).
  • You must take the completed application and original documents to the nearest SSA office.

For F-1/J-1 visa holders (Students):

For J-1 visa holders (Scholars):

  • Original Form I-20/DS-2019
  • Passport
  • Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record
  • Employment Letter
  • Original Form DS-2019
  • Passport
  • Form I-94, Arrival/Departure Record


Things to remember when completing the Application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5):

  • Fill in your name exactly as it is shown on your Form I-94 and passport. The name on your passport, Form DS-2019 and Form I-94 should all be the same.
  • Check “Legal Alien Allowed to Work.”
  • Enter your date of birth in the following manner: month, day, year (MM/DD/YYYY).
  • Enter your mother’s birth surname (maiden name).

How long will it take to get a Social Security number?

The Social Security Administration (SSA) must verify your documents with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before a Social Security number (SSN) can be assigned to you. After receiving the verification from DHS, a SSN will be issued to you and the Social Security card (containing the assigned SSN) will be mailed to the address provided on the application (Form SS-5). Most of the time, documents can be verified quickly with DHS, online. If the documents cannot be verified online, it may take DHS several weeks to respond to the request. The SSA works closely with DHS to reduce these delays.

How do I contact the Social Security Administration (SSA)?

For more information and to find copies of Social Security Administration (SSA) publications, visit their Web site at or call toll-free, 1-800-772-1213 (for the deaf or hard of hearing, call their TTY number, 1-800-325-0778). The SSA representatives can answer specific questions from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m., Monday through Friday. Information is also provided by automated phone service 24 hours a day. All calls are treated confidentially.

Office Address:

Phone Numbers:
Local Number: 1-866-667-7221
National Toll-Free: 1-800-772-1213
TTY: 1-800-325-0778

Office Hours: MONDAY - FRIDAY: 9:00 AM - 03:30 PM, except Federal Holidays