Social Security Number

Overview

A Social Security number (SSN) is issued to track earnings over a worker's lifetime. Students holding F-1 and J-1 status who are employed in the U.S. must apply for a Social Security number. Dependents in F-2 status are not eligible for a Social Security number. (Students who will not work on campus but who receive a taxable scholarship can apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) for tax purposes).

In order to issue a Social Security number, the Social Security Administration requires evidence that you are eligible to work in the U.S., that you are a full-time student, and that you have received a formal offer of on-campus employment, or have been authorized for off-campus employment through Curricular Practical Training, Optional Practical Training, or Academic Training. A Social Security number is not required to obtain a driver's license, cell phone, credit card, insurance, admission to an academic institution or other "non-work" reasons. The Social Security Administration must also verify your immigration documents and status with Immigration before issuing the Social Security number. Note that new students may not apply for an SSN earlier than 10 business days after arriving in the U.S. The Social Security number itself is not a work permit.

The Social Security Administration office nearest the UW is located downtown at 915 Second Avenue, Suite 901, Seattle, WA, 98104.

Application Process

F-1 Students With On-Campus Employment

  1. New students (current/continuing students skip to step 4): complete the ISS Online Information Session.
  2. Register for full-time credits. "Full-time" is 12 credits for undergraduates and 10 credits for graduate students.
  3. Update your local address through your MyUW page, even if it is only a temporary address.
  4. Complete the Social Security Verification Form with your hiring official/supervisor and submit the form to the ISS front desk. Allow one week for processing. Your ISS adviser will verify your full-time status as well as on-campus employment eligibility and will sign the form. You will receive an email from your ISS adviser when the form is ready to pick up at the front desk. Allow 3-5 business days for processing. New students: your ISS adviser will update your record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Wait at least 10 business days after arriving in the U.S. before requesting a Social Security number.
  5. Apply in person at a local Social Security Administration office. Apply no earlier than 30 days before your scheduled employment start date. Bring with you:
    • Completed and signed Social Security Verification Form
    • Form I-20
    • Valid passport (along with old passport if it contains your F-1 visa)
    • I-94 card; or, a copy of your F-1 admission stamp in your passport and a printout of your electronic I-94 information, which can be obtained at CBP.gov/I94
    • Form SS-5

F-1 Students Authorized for Curricular Practical Training

Apply for a Social Security number in person at a local Social Security Administration office. Apply no earlier than 30 days before your scheduled employment start date. Bring with you:

  • Form I-20 (updated and endorsed for practical training)
  • Passport
  • I-94 card; or, a copy of your F-1 admission stamp in your passport and a printout of your electronic I-94 information, which can be obtained at CBP.gov/I94
  • Form SS-5

F-1 Students Authorized for Optional Practical Training

Apply for a Social Security number in person at a local Social Security Administration office. Apply on or after the start date on your EAD card. Bring with you:

  • Form I-20 (updated and endorsed for practical training)
  • Passport
  • I-94 card; or, a copy of your F-1 admission stamp in your passport and a printout of your electronic I-94 information, which can be obtained at CBP.gov/I94
  • EAD card
  • Form SS-5

J-1 Students With On-Campus Employment

  1. New students (continuing students skip to step 4): complete the ISS Online Information Session.
  2. Register full-time.
  3. Update your local address through your MyUW page, even if it is only a temporary address.
  4. Email your primary ISS adviser in order to update your record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Provide your ISS adviser with the following information:
    • Intention to apply for Social Security Number
    • Name of hiring department
    • Address of employment
    • Number of hours per week to be worked
    • Start and end date
  5. Apply for a Social Security number in person at a local Social Security Administration office. (New students: wait at least 10 business days from your arrival in the U.S. before requesting a Social Security number.)
    Bring with you:
    • Form DS-2019
    • Passport (along with old passport if it contains your J-1 visa)
    • I-94 card; or, a copy of your J-1 admission stamp in your passport and a printout of your electronic I-94 information, which can be obtained at CBP.gov/I94
    • An employment offer letter from your department/hiring office
    • Form SS-5

J-1 Students Authorized for Academic Training

  1. Obtain documentation for employment authorization from your ISS adviser or your sponsoring agency.
  2. Apply for a Social Security number at the Social Security Administration office. Bring with you:
    • Form DS-2019 with Academic Training notation
    • Passport
    • I-94 card; or, a copy of your J-1 admission stamp in your passport and a printout of your electronic I-94 information, which can be obtained at CBP.gov/I94
    • Form SS-5

    Note: J-2 dependents with employment authorization will need to bring the above documents plus their EAD card in order to apply for an Social Security number.

Helpful Websites

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it cost?

There is no charge for a Social Security number and card.

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

The Social Security Administration will mail your number and card as soon as all of your immigration information has been verified. It can take 2-4 weeks or more.

What if my card is lost or stolen?

You can replace your card for free if it is lost or stolen. However, you are limited to three replacement cards in a year and 10 during your lifetime. Legal name changes and other exceptions do not count toward these limits. For example, changes in nonimmigrant status that require card updates may not count toward these limits.

To request a replacement card:

  • Complete an Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5)
  • Present recently issued photo identification to show your identity (passport, Washington state identification card)
  • Show evidence of your current lawful nonimmigrant status (visa, I-20/ DS-2019, I-94)
  • Complete a new Social Security Verification form (if you are employed on campus)

Your replacement card will have the same name and number as your previous card.

What if my immigration status or citizenship changes?

If your immigration status changes or you become a legal permanent resident (LPR), you should inform the Social Security Administration office so that your records can be updated. You will need to present documents that prove your new status.

Are my earnings taxable for Social Security purposes?

As a student in F-1 or J-1 status your earnings from authorized employment are generally not taxable for social security purposes.

Please review the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Publications 515 and 519 for details about employment taxes payable on the earnings of a nonresident aliens.

Can I start working before I receive a Social Security card?

Yes, you can start to work on campus (provided that you enroll full-time or are on an annual vacation quarter) and off-campus with authorization from ISS or Immigration. However, it is recommended by the Payroll department that you apply for a Social Security number immediately.