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Social Security Number


A Social Security number (SSN) is issued to track earnings over a worker’s lifetime. The SSN itself is not a work permit. When you get an SSN, you can use that number for your lifetime.

If you work in the U.S., you must be sure you have authorization and must apply for an SSN.


If you do not work on campus but you receive a taxable scholarship, you should apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) for tax purposes.


To get an SSN, you must show the Social Security Administration that you:

  • Are eligible to work in the U.S.
  • Are a full-time student

Have one of the following:

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. Dependents in F-1 status are not eligible for an SSN.

How to Apply: F-1 Students

F-1 How to Apply for SSN

New students: complete all steps in the “New Student Post-Arrival Checklist.” Wait 2-3 weeks after arriving in the U.S. to apply for the SSN.

To apply for an SSN, you need two letters from UW:

  1. A campus employment letter from your UW hiring department
  2. An SSN support letter from ISS

Follow these instructions to request the required letters and then apply for an SSN.

Step 1: Get a Campus Employment Letter

Ask your UW campus hiring department for a campus employment letter. Give them this letter template provided by the Social Security Administration.

The letter must:

  • Be on hiring department or UW letterhead
  • Have an original signature from a hiring official

Step 2: Get an ISS Support Letter

Submit a request to get an SSN Support letter through MyISSS.

Step 3: Apply for an SSN

Complete and submit the social security number application.

Step 4: Visit your local Social Security Administration (SSA) Office

Visit the SSA Office to finish the process and share your documents. You must visit the SSA office and show your documentation within 45 calendar days of when you completed your online application.

Take with you:

  • Original on-campus employment letter
  • Original SSN Support Letter from ISS
  • Form I-20
  • Valid passport (along with old passport if it contains your F-1 visa)
  • I-94 record US CBP I-94
  • Confirmation that you completed the SS-5 online

Complete the social security application online. Then, visit your local SSA office to show them your documents in person. Apply no earlier than 30 days before your scheduled employment start date.

Take with you:

  • I-20 with CPT authorization
  • Passport
  • I-94 record from the USCBP I-94 website
  • Confirmation that you completed the SS-5 online

If you did not request an SSN as part of your OPT application, complete the social security application online. Then, visit your local SSA office to show them your documents in person. Apply on or after the start date on your EAD card.

Take with you:

  • OPT I-20
  • Passport
  • EAD Card
  • I-94 record from the USCBP I-94 website
  • Confirmation that you completed the SS-5 online

How to Apply: J-1 Students

J-1 How to Apply for SSN

  1. New students (continuing students skip to step 2): complete the ISS Online New Student Check-In
  2. Receive an on-campus job offer (but do not start the job prior to getting ISS permission).
  3. Apply for on-campus work authorization by submitting the “On-campus Employment” request through MyISSS. You will need the following information to complete the webform:
    • Employer name (UW hiring department)
    • Employer address
    • Number of hours per week
    • Employment start and end date
    • Whether or not the employment relates to a scholarship, fellowship, or assistantship, or if it simply occurs on the UW campus
  4. Allow time for ISS processing. ISS will verify your full-time status as well as on-campus employment eligibility. You will receive an email from ISS when the on-campus employment authorization is ready to pick up. Wait for employment authorization confirmation from ISS.
  5. Apply for a Social Security number in person at a local Social Security Administration office. (New students: wait at least 2-3 weeks from your arrival in the U.S. before requesting a Social Security number.) Bring with you:
    • ISS On-Campus Employment Authorization/SSN Eligibility Letter
    • 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 from the USCBP I-94 website
    • An employment offer letter from your department/hiring office
    • Form SS-5

  1. Obtain documentation for employment authorization from your ISS adviser or your sponsoring agency.
  2. Complete the social security application online.
  3. Visit your local SSA office to show them your documents in person.

Take with you:

  • Form DS-2019 with Academic Training notation
  • Passport
  • I-94 record from the USCBP I-94 website
  • Confirmation that you completed the SS-5 online

Dependents: J-2 dependents with employment authorization will need to have the above documents plus their EAD card in order to apply for an SSN.

Helpful Resources

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions

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.

You can replace your card for free if it is lost or stolen if you meet the eligibility requirements noted above. If you do not currently have an on-campus job or off-campus training authorization, the SSA will not issue a replacement card. Follow the steps above to obtain a replacement card.

As long as you have authorization (on-campus work, CPT, or OPT), yes: you can start working without an SSN. Be sure your employer follows the correct instructions for allowing you to begin work without the SSN. The Social Security Administration’s publication, “Foreign Workers and Social Security Numbers,” has additional information.

Apply for the SSN as soon as possible after getting your job offer. If you forget to apply, this will cause problems later with tax filing.