Social Security Number (SSN) Q&A 01

Q. What is Social Security Number (SSN)?

A. It is a number that link you to Social Security system in the states. To simplify, it is a number that is directly related to some government services that you are required to participate if you get paid in the states – which is why you need it for work.

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is more strictly for the tax purpose – if you can, it’s better to get SSN because it can be used in more variety of situation.

Q. How do I apply for SSN?

A. In general, you can get Social Security Number (SSN) as an international student only if you have a job offer. 

Bring documents that shows that you are legally staying in the states, has a job offer, and you are allowed to work in that job (work permit) to a local Social Security office.

  • Examples of documents that can show your:
    • legal status: I-94, I-20, DS-2019 with passport and visa
    • Job offer: Signed offer letter (if you didn’t receive one yet, ask your supervisor)
    • Work permit: EAD card, or I-20 or DS-2019 with CPT/OPT if you are working off campus. If you are working on campus within 20 hours/week, you don’t need CPT/OPT
    • More details on the documents: https://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/ss5doc.htm
  • Local SSN office locator: https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp

Q. How long dose it take to get SSN?

A. Most people I know finish the whole process in about a month, from collecting the documents and to receive the actual card.

As long as you have all the documents, it may take a couple of days to get approved, and about 10 business days to receive the actual card in you mail.

In most cases, you will need the card, not jut the number, to start work. 

If you are working off campus, please keep in mind that it will take some time to get your CPT/OPT that you need to apply for SSN.

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