Social Security Number (SSN)

The Social Security Number (SSN) is primarily intended to identify participants in the US federal government's Social Security Program.

What is a Social Security Number (SSN)

A SSN are generally assigned to people who are authorized to work in the United States and are used to report their wages to the government. A SSN does not expire and stays with the individual.

An SSN is not a U.S. work authorization.  Students should not assume they can work in the U.S. just because they have SSNs. 

Who is eligible to Receive an SSN

F-1 international students and J-1 exchange students are only eligible to receive a Social Security Number after they have obtained U.S. work authorization (such as through on-campus or off-campus employment). Students must obtain U.S. work authorization BEFORE applying for SSN. 

Social Security Administration will not assign a number to F-1 international students and J-1 exchange students just to enroll in a college or school.

See International Students and Social Security Numbers (ssa.gov) on Social Security Administration's website.

How to Apply for a SSN

Step 1: Receive U.S. Work Authorization

See the Employment Authorization resources for specific steps on applying for different types of U.S. work authorization.

If students have obtained on-campus employment at SF State, they will need a job offer letter from their on-campus employer and an SSN support letter from OIP in order to apply for an SSN.

On-campus employer are advised to use the job offer template provided by the Social Security Administration. See below.  SF State's Employer Identification Number (EIN) is 93-1137247.

Step 2: Schedule an appointment at the Social Security Administration office

Find the nearest Social Security Administration office at https://www.ssa.gov/locator/ and contact them for the next steps on how to apply for an SSN at their location.

On the day of the appointment, bring the following documents:

  • Valid passport
  • Original SF State I-20 or DS-2019
  • I-94 arrival record (print from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/)
  • Proof of Employment: (one of the following)
    • On-campus Employment:
      • A job offer letter (use the template provided above) from students' on-campus employers.
      • SSN support letter from OIP
    • Off-campus Employment:
      • F-1 international students:
        • Students who have CPT authorization: An I-20 with CPT authorization.
        • Students who have OPT or Economic Hardship work authorization: A valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD).
      • J-1 exchange students: Academic Training: A job offer letter from the employer and an SSN support letter from an exchange student advisor at OIP.
It may take several weeks for students to receive their SSN. Students must have an SSN in order to complete their I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification and work legally in the United States.

Last updated: September 2021

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