What is a Social Security Number (SSN)?
A Social Security Number (SSN) is a 9-digit identification number, assigned by the U.S. government, that is used for tax reporting purposes. It is not employment authorization.
Who is eligible for an SSN?
F and J students are eligible for an SSN.
- F1 students must have a job offer. Students who have never worked on campus, but who find authorized employment off campus (like CPT or OPT) are also eligible to apply for an SSN.
- J1 students may obtain an SSN with or without a job offer.
Why do I need an SSN?
Non-U.S. citizens who are legally employed are required to provide an SSN:
- For wage and tax reporting purposes
- For tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS)
However, banks, apartment owners, telephone companies and many other businesses typically ask you for an SSN even though you may not be eligible for one. Those businesses should be able to provide you services without an SSN. If they persist, ISSS can write a generic letter explaining why you are not eligible for an SSN and therefore, why they should not deny you their service.
How do I apply for an SSN?
- F1 students: need two (2) SSN support letters. One will come from your employer and the other from ISSS.
- J1 students or scholars: can present either an employment letter or a support letter from ISSS in case you would like an SSN but are not employed.
- Take the required letters to the Social Security Administration (SSA) office to request a free SSN. It will be mailed to your local address in the U.S. in about 2 weeks.
How to request an SSN support letter from ISSS?
- Login to iStart and complete the e-form called “SSN Letter Request”.
- If you are unfamiliar with iStart, visit Learn about iStart.
- ISSS will verify enrollment, lawful presence and other information before processing your SSN Letter request.
- J-1 students sponsored by IIE, Fulbright, Muskie, etc (other than Georgia State) do not need to request a social security letter from ISSS in order to request an SSN. The letter from your sponsor is adequate.
I have my SSN support letter from ISSS. What’s Next?
Go to the nearest Social Security Administration (SSA) office.
Bring the following with you:
- Everyone: Passport, I-94 Card and completed Form SS-5 on the SSA website.
- F-1 Students:
- For on-campus employment: Valid I-20 form, employer letter and ISSS letter
- For CPT employment: Valid I-20, CPT authorization, employer letter and ISSS letter
- For OPT employment: I-20, OPT authorization, EAD card, employer letter and ISSS letter
- J-1 Students: DS-2019 form and employment offer letter or ISSS support letter.
- J-1 Scholars/Researchers: DS-2019 and employment letter.
- J-2 Students: DS-2019 for the J-1 student/scholar and J-2 dependent, valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from U.S. Citizen & Immigration Services (USCIS)
- H-1 Students: A Copy of Form I-797 showing approval of the H-1 petition
Please Be Aware:
- Your employment offer letter should include the EIN# (employer identification number). You can get a sample letter for this purpose from ISSS if needed.
- Wait at least 10 days after you initially entered the United States in order to request an SSN. This will allow enough time for the SSA to have access to your immigration information and verify your legal status and employment eligibility.
- There is no cost to apply for an SSN. After submitting the application, the SSN card will arrive by mail in approximately two to four weeks at your local address in the US.
Frequently Asked Questions
Social Security Number FAQ
401 W. Peachtree Street, Suite 2860, 28th Floor - Peachtree Summit Federal Building (Accessible via Civic Center MARTA Station), 8:30 a.m. - 3:30 p.m. (closed holidays). 866-931-9946 or 800-772-1213
To find a location near you, visit the Social Security Administration, then click "Find a Social Security Office" in the menu on the left.
Only after you apply for a social security number will HR be able to start processing your employment paperwork. If your I-20 does not list employment information, you will have to provide them with a receipt for your SSN application. When the SSN card arrives, please bring it to HR as soon as possible to begin receiving payment.
Important: If you are told by the SSA that your admission number (I-94 number) has not been put in the system/database, the SSN representative should make photocopies of all your documents and give you a receipt. If you are told to come back or go to USCIS, kindly ask them to verify your immigration status by faxing a request for verification to LOSISV (Los Angeles Immigration Status Verification) unit. Make sure they make copies of your immigration documents for verification. If this happens to you, the SSA office has indicated that it can take up to 90 days to receive your SSN. If denied, request a written denial and come see us!