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Obtaining A Social Security Number

A Social Security Number (SSN) is a unique, 9-digit number used for taxpayer identification, income reporting, and record-keeping purposes. Once issued, the number is valid for life. Keep it safe and provide only as needed to U.S. government agencies or credible financial institutions. The SSN is required in order to be paid for any work done in the U.S. whether on-campus employment or off-campus internship (practical training).


International students holding a non-immigrant F-1 or J-1 student visa who have secured a paid position in the U.S. are eligible for a SSN.

Who can apply?

When to apply?

  • The application for a SSN must be made before your on-campus job begins.
  • You may not apply earlier than 30 days before your work begin date if you are doing on-campus work or CPT.
  • Once you’ve submitted your application you should receive your SSN within 2-4 weeks.
  • OPT applicants have the option to apply for a SSN at the same time they apply for EAD.

How to apply?

COVID-19 Update

Even though SSA offices are closed for the public, they continue working remotely. You can call your local SSA office to request an appointment. The local office contact information can be found on the Social Security Office Locator SSA website.

Here is the SSA offices operational protocol:

  • Offices will make appointments only for applicants filing for original SSN.
  • You need to be clear and explain that you have been authorized for CPT employment.
  • Explain that you need an appointment as a first-time SSN applicant.
  • Local SSA office will determine the availability of appointments based on office size, availability of staff, and jurisdictionally specific guidelines.
  • Based on the above, SSA local office has discretion to determine how soon you can have an appointment.
  • Once you have secured an interview appointment, you should complete the paper Form SS-5 and bring it along with the required supporting documentation (originals only) to the interview.
  • SSA staff will conduct the mandatory face-to-face interview and make copies of the original documentation (passport, I-20 processed for CPT [hard copy, no PDFs], I-94, job letter).
  • The SSA office will process the documentation and mail a receipt to you. Within ten days (if there are delays may take up to 3 weeks) the SSN card should follow.

Where to apply?

Even though there are many Social Security Administration offices in New York, it is highly recommended to apply at your local office by your place of residence. You can also use the Social Security Office Locator to find the center where you should apply.

When on OPT

OPT applicants now have the option to apply for a Social Security number (SSN) at the same time they apply for employment authorization/Employment Authorization Document (EAD). U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) has revised the Form I-765, Application for Employment Authorization (PDF). The revised I-765 Form includes certain items which will enable an OPT applicant to apply for an SSN.

Please note, if you obtained an SSN prior to applying for OPT, you do NOT need to reapply and should simply skip these items on the I-765 Form.

LOST YOUR Social Security Number?

It is important to protect your SSN and be aware of identity theft (PDF). If you lose your SSN card you will need to reapply for a new one. You can only apply for a replacement card if you are authorized to work off-campus or have an on-campus job.