Social Security Numbers for F-1 and J-1 Visa Holders

  • The Social Security Administration now requires all F-1 and J-1 students to supply evidence of employment before being issued a Social Security number. A Social Security number (SSN) cannot be issued for identification purposes or for a driver’s license. It can take 2-6 weeks to be issued a SSN. You can be paid after you apply for an SSN.

    Important Note: Students in their first semester at IUP must have been in the US for 10 days AND wait until one week after the drop/add period before applying. (Computer systems must be in sync.)

    How to Apply for a Social Security Number

    1. Get an On-Campus Job: You must be employed or be starting employment in the near future. If a potential employer does not understand why you don’t have a SSN, he or she can contact the Office of International Education (OIE). Students with graduate or teaching assistantships, please take a copy of your contract to the Social Security Office with the form listed below. To find an on-campus job, please go to the Job Board.
    2. Employer fills out Employer Section (PDF No Handwriting): E-mail your employer—ask to complete page 3 of this form on the computer and print it— Social Security Work Authorization. All sections must be completed. Please have your employer contact the payroll or HR office.
    3. Office of International Education signs form: Please drop off your signed form at the Office of International Education and allow two days for signature.
    4. Go to Social Security Office: You will need to bring your Work Authorization Form, DS-2019 or I-20, passport, visa, and I-94. You will be required to complete an application at the Social Security Office and meet briefly with an officer. If you have OPT/J2 work card, bring your work card as well. For paperless I-94, you can print it from the Customs and Border Protection website.You will be required to complete an application at the Social Security Office and meet briefly with an officer. You should be issued a card within two to three weeks.

    What Immigrants and New Citizens Should Know About Social Security Numbers

    By Jennifer Flanigan
    Social Security Operations Supervisor/Indiana, Pa.

    Whether you are a new U.S. citizen or a noncitizen with authorization to work in this country, you need to apply for a Social Security card and number in order to work in the United States.

    While most American citizens now have Social Security cards issued at birth, a noncitizen applying for his or her first Social Security card or number must prove identity, age, and citizenship.

    Getting a Social Security card if you are a naturalized citizen

    If you are a naturalized citizen,you will need to prove your citizenship with documentation from the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (formerly Immigration and Naturalization Service). You also must complete an application for a Social Security card, which you can find online at the Social Security Administration (pdf). You can bring your completed application into your local Social Security office or Social Security Card Center along with official documents that show:

    • U.S. citizenship,
    • Age, and
    • Identity

    All documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. We cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents.

    Even if you already have a Social Security number when you become a naturalized U.S. citizen, you should still contact Social Security to update your status.

    Getting a Social Security card if you are a noncitizen

    All noncitizens needing a Social Security number must prove their immigration status and also show proof of age, identity, and work authorization from the Department of Homeland Security. To prove your age, you must show your birth certificate if you have it or can easily get it. If not, we can ask for other documents, such as your passport.

    As proof of immigration status and identity, Social Security will ask for your unexpired passport and current immigration documents from the Department of Homeland Security, including a:

    • Permanent Residence Card or Form I-551,
    • Arrival-Departure Record or Form I-94 with an unexpired passport, or
    • Work permit card – Form I-766 or I-688b

    These documents must be current, meaning they cannot be expired. And, again, all documents must be either originals or copies certified by the agency that issued them. We cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents.

    If you would like more information about Social Security cards and the requirements needed to get one, just visit the Social Security Number and Card website. If you do not have access to the Internet, you can call our toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778) and ask for the publication Your Social Security Number and Card, or Social Security Numbers for Noncitizens.

    SSN for Identification

    • Social Security numbers will not be issued for proof of identity, cell phones, utilities, or reservation of housing.
    • It is not lawful for businesses to require a Social Security number for identification. Explain that you are not eligible for a SSN or are waiting to receive a SSN. Ask if you can provide an alternative form of identification (passport, international driver’s license, notarized statement).
    • There is a notary public at the HUB I-Card Office. This service is free for IUP students. Call 724-357-1314 for more information.

    SSN for a Driver’s License or Pennsylvania Identification Card

    If you do not have a job currently, you cannot be issued a Social Security Number.

    To obtain a driver’s license or Pennsylvania ID card:

    1. Request a driver’s license letter from the Office of International Education 
    2. Go directly to the Social Security Office and request a “Social Security Denial Letter.” You will be given a denial letter the day you request it.
    3. Take this letter to the Driver’s License Center with the Office of International Education Driver’s License Letter and other required documents.