The SSN is a nine-digit number issued by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for Federal tax purposes only. It does not entitle you to social security benefits and does not change your immigration status or grant employment authorization.
You are only eligible to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) if you have on-campus employment or authorization to work off campus. If you have on-campus employment, such as a student worker position or graduate assistantship, International Student Services (ISS) will provide you a letter (a Social Security Letter for F-1 students and a J-1 Employment Authorization letter for J-1 students) to take to Social Security Administration (SSA) to apply for your SSN.
Social Security Letter Requests for On-Campus Employment
Step 1: Request a Letter from International Student Services
F-1 Students: Upload the International Student Employment Letter (printed on department letterhead) or Graduate International Student Award Letter to the Social Security Letter e-form.
J-1 Students: Submit the On-Campus Employment Authorization e-form.
Normal processing time is 5 business days.
Step 2: Apply for a SSN at at the Tucson Social Security Office
To apply for a SSN, you must submit an application and present the following original documents at the Tucson Social Security Administration Office:
Immigration documents (I-20 or DS-2019, passport, and I-94)
ISS Social Security Letter with original ink signature
University Employer Letter (F-1 students only) with original ink signature
Employment Authorization Letter (J-1 students only) with original ink signature
You cannot apply for an SSN until 10 days after your entry to the U.S., and 2 days after your initial immigration record has been registered in SEVIS.
You are not required to have a Social Security number before you start work. The Payroll office will still release checks without the SSN, but you must provide a receipt to show you have applied.
Applying for a Social Security Number with Off-Campus Work Authorization
If you have been authorized for work off campus (curricular practical training, optional practical training, academic training or severe economic hardship) you do not need to request a letter from ISS before applying at SSA.
If you are an F-1 student, on an approved period of curricular practical training, present the 2nd page of your I-20 to show the employment authorization, along with your passport and I-94.
If you are an F-1 student on optional practical training or severe economic hardship, present your employment authorization document (EAD) from USCIS, along with your I-20, passport and I-94.
If you are a J-1 student on academic training, present your DS-2019 and academic training authorization letter, along with your passport and I-94.