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Santa Clara University

Social Security Number (SSN)

SSA Has Reopened (No Appointment Needed)

Local Social Security Administration (SSA) offices have recently reopened after 2 years of closure due to COVID-19.

You are no longer required to schedule an emergency appointment. Instead, as soon as you have collected your required documents, can go directly to the local Social Security Administration office during their business hours.

When visiting the SSA office you should expect long wait times. If possible, we recommend that you avoid the busiest times: Mondays, the morning after a U.S. Federal holiday, and the first week of the month.

The Social Security Number (“SSN”) is a personalized number used by the U.S. government to monitor wages, earnings and tax payments.  Since U.S. citizens are eligible for this number at birth, it is common for the SSN to be treated as a national ID number, but it is not and not everyone in the U.S. is eligible for an SSN. 

International Students and Exchange Visitors are only eligible to apply for an SSN if they are working on campus or getting paid for an approved academic internship or practical training.

If you are asked for your SSN but do not yet have one, you should reply that you are legally present but not eligible for an SSN. 

If you have been granted an SSN you should remember that it is a sensitive, personal number that you should keep secure and should never share via phone or email. To learn more about SSN safety, please visit our Safety and Security resource page.

The process of applying for your Social Security Number (SSN):

  1. Identify the reason you're eligible to apply for an SSN
  2. Collect the required documents for your SSN application
  3. Visit the Social Security Administration office in person and apply for your SSN

Once you have your SSN, you should complete any required hiring paperwork and begin employment once you get approval from your company's Human Resources department. Typically this entire process takes about 3 weeks.

Step 1: Identify the reason you're eligible to apply for an SSN

Since the SSN is used to track earnings and wages, people in F-1 and J-1 status are only eligible to apply for an SSN if they are eligible to work.

F-1 students, you can only apply for an SSN if you meet one of these criteria:

  1. You’ve received an on-campus employment offer or,
  2. You’ve received an I-20 authorizing you to engage in an academic internship off-campus (CPT) or,
  3. You’ve received your approved OPT EAD Card and plan to engage in OPT after graduation.

J-1 students, you can only apply for an SSN if you have approval to work on-campus or authorization for an off-campus academic internship (Academic Training).

J-1 scholars (professors and researchers), you are eligible to apply for an SSN 1 week after completing immigration check-in.

J-2 dependent spouses, you can only apply for an SSN if when you apply for an EAD Card.

Step 2: Collect the Required Documents for Your SSN Application

To apply for your SSN, you will need:

  1. SSN Application Form
  2. Passport
  3. I-94 Record
  4. Most recent I-20
  5. SSN Letter of Support (issued by ISS)
  6. On-Campus Employment Offer Letter (issued by your hiring manager)

To get your SSN Letter of Support from ISS:

Collect an On-Campus Employment Offer Letter from your on-campus employer and email the letter to iss@scu.edu. We willl use this to verify your immigration status and issue your SSN Letter of Support. This can take up to 5 business days. We will email you when the letter of support is ready.

To apply for your SSN, you will need:

  1. SSN Application Form
  2. Passport
  3. I-94 Record
  4. Most recent I-20 with CPT authorization
  5. Employment Offer Letter (issued by your CPT employer)

Students with CPT authorization do not need a letter of support from ISS for their application.

Students who need an SSN at the time of applying for post-completion OPT apply for the SSN concurrently with your OPT EAD Application (on Form I-765). No additional supporting documents are required for the SSN part of the application. 

Your SSN should be issued and mailed to you within 14 days of your OPT EAD card starting validity date. If you do not receive your SSN, please contact our office.

J-1 students require special written authorization from ISS in order to engage in any employment (on campus or off campus). It is rare that SCU authorizes on campus or academic training for J-1 students. If you are intersted in working in the U.S. please email iss@scu.edu to request a consultation with the J-1 advisor prior to applying for any positions.

Once your J-1 student employment has been approved, to apply for your SSN, you will need:

  1. SSN Application Form
  2. Passport
  3. I-94 Record
  4. Most recent DS-2019
  5. SSN Letter of Support (issued by ISS)
  6. Employment Offer Letter (issued by your hiring manager)

Our Letter of Support will be issued concurrent to our issuance of your employment authorization. This process can take up to 5 business days. We will email you when the documents are ready to collect from our office.

To apply for your SSN, you will need:

  1. SSN Application Form
  2. Passport
  3. I-94 Record
  4. Most recent DS-2019
  5. Academic Appointment Letter (faculty) or Employment Offer Letter (staff) or Invitation Letter (all other visiting scholars)

You must wait until at least 1 week after your immigration check-in (typically at Scholar Orientation) to apply for your SSN.

J-2 dependents who need an SSN at the time of applying for their J-2 EAD card apply for the SSN concurrently with your EAD Application (on Form I-765). No additional supporting documents are required for the SSN part of the application. 

Your SSN should be issued and mailed to you within 14 days of your EAD card approval. If you do not receive your SSN, please contact our office.

Newly Arrived Students

We recommend that newly arrived International Students (F-1) wait two weeks from the start of classes to apply for your SSN. Once your first term of classes starts it takes about two weeks for your immigration record to be updated in the Social Security Administration (SSA) system. If you apply for your SSN too soon after your first term of classes begins, the SSA office will not be able to verify your identity and status in the U.S. and your SSN issuance will be delayed.

Step 3: Visit the Social Security Administration office in person and apply for your SSN

When visiting the SSA office you should expect long wait times. If possible, we recommend that you avoid the busiest times: Mondays, the morning after a U.S. Federal holiday, and the first week of the month.

Not all Social Security Administration offices are used to working with international student applicants. We recommend that you visit the offices below to ensure they are able to help you:

Near Santa Clara University
280 S First Street
Room 244, 2nd floor
San Jose, CA 95113

Near the Jesuit School of Theology  
2045 Allston Way
Berkeley, CA 94704

Hours of Operation 
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 9:00AM - 4:00PM
Wednesday 9:00AM - 12:00PM
Saturday, Sunday Closed

Phone: 1-800-772-1213

Website: www.SSA.gov

Disclaimer: U.S. immigration regulations are complex and change frequently. While we strive to maintain a website that is both current and helpful, Santa Clara University is not responsible for students maintaining lawful immigration status; this is the responsibility of the student.  Links provided do not constitute endorsement by Santa Clara University.