What Is A Social Security Number And How Do I Get One?

A Social Security Number (SSN) is a nine-digit number given to each American citizen, resident, or temporary worker. It allows you to work, get a drivers license, get a credit card, and more. As an international student, since you are allowed to work (with limitations), you are allowed to get a Social Security Number. Having a Social Security Number will make your time in the States easier, and I would recommend getting an on-campus job as soon as you get to college so you can get your SSN. Here’s a step by step of how to apply and get your Social Security Number.

Prepare the required documentation.

  • I-20
  • I-94 (which you can retrieve here)
  • Letter from on-campus employer (including your job, the start date, the number of hours per week, the supervisor’s name and phone number, and the supervisor’s signature)
  • Letter from your school (it needs to identify you, your student status, your employer, and the type of work you will be doing – check with your international advisor about this one)
  • Your original birth certificate (if you have it) and foreign passport to verify your age and identity, as well as to see your admission stamp

Find your nearest Social Security Office here.

Find a friend who loves you enough to drive you or just get an Uber and head to the office. I would recommend getting there very early if you want the process to be as painless as possibly. I remember I arrived about 30 minutes before the office opened and left quickly after it opened, but there was a large line already forming.

Fill out the application form. Once the office opens, fill out the application form they will provide for you. Make sure you write down your correct US address since you will be receiving your Social Security Card via mail.

Wait until your name/number is called. Present all your documents and follow all of the officer’s instructions. Explain that you’re an international student and that you just got an on-campus job. Be very nice and respectful, and be patient if they have a lot of questions. Depending on where you are, the social security office may not process a lot of international students and it could take them awhile to process you correctly.

Wait for your Social Security card to arrive in the mail. You should receive your card within 2 weeks of applying for it. Once you receive your card, make sure you memorize the number (or write it down somewhere safe) and keep the card somewhere secure. Do not carry it with you. Identity theft is a real concern, and if you lose your card it will be very difficult to get a new one. You can begin to work before you receive your social security card, as long as you present your employer with a letter from the Social Security Administration stating you have applied for one; they should provide you with this for your appointment.

For more information, click here.

Congratulations; you’ve just overcome one of the biggest early hurdles many international students face! Good luck at your new on-campus job.



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