A Social Security number (SSn) is a number issued by the U.S. Federal government for tax purposes. All students and scholars who are currently employed are required to apply for a SSn. Students in F-1 or J-1 status who are not currently employed are not eligible to apply for a SSn. F-2 dependents are not eligible for a SSn; J-2 dependents are only eligible if they’ve applied for and received work authorization from USCIS and have a current offer of employment. The SSn is NOT required to obtain an NC State driver’s license or to open a bank account with some financial institutions.
New international students/scholars must first attend a scheduled check-in with OIS before applying for a SSn so OIS can activate/validate the SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019 record. After check-in OIS recommends the student or scholar to wait at least five days before applying for the SSn. OIS also recommends that new students/scholars wait 10 days after arrival to the U.S. before applying since the Social Security Administration must confirm the port-of-entry details posted by U.S. Customs and Border Protection at the port of entry (there is a delay of up to 10 days for that interface to occur).
Which documents do you need to apply to a SSn?
A completed application for a SSn
Passport and visa (visa can be expired)
I-94 (card or electronic printout – English only)
I-20 (for F-1 students) or DS-2019 (for J-1 students/scholars)
Additional requirements by visa type:
F-1 Students (not on CPT or OPT):
An offer letter from the hiring department confirming employment that contains the following elements required by the The Social Security Administration (if the offer letter does not follow the prescribed requirements, it is the responsibility of the student to request a new letter from the hiring department/office):
- Have an original hand signed ink signature by the hiring official (electronic, stamped or copied signatures will not be accepted by the SSA)
- Be on departmental letterhead
- Include the job title
- Include the employment start date
- Include the work location
- Include the salary
- The Social Security Administration also requires that the Designated School Official (DSO) in OIS write a support letter. The OIS letter is in addition to the letter from the hiring official. Therefore, F-1 students needing to apply for an SSn must submit a SSn Letter Request form. OIS needs to confirm student and immigration status prior to creating the SSn Letter, so students should allow 2 business days for the letter to be signed before coming to OIS to it pick-up.
F-1 Student on Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
Must show proof of CPT authorization on page 3 of I-20, after authorization by OIS. No additional documentation from OIS required, however you cannot apply for a social security number until 30 days before your employment start date.
F-1 Student on Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Must show Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from USCIS after authorization. No additional documentation from OIS required, however you cannot apply for a social security number until 30 days before your employment start date. The Social Secuirty Administration will not process your application until your EAD start date has passed.
If employed on-campus, must complete the OIS form, J-1 On-Campus Employment Authorization Request and pick up the on-campus employment authorization letter from OIS when emailed to pick up after submission of form.
How to apply to a SSn
The Social Security Administration requires you apply in person. The address of the closest Social Security Administration office to NCSU is 4701 Old Wake Forest Road, Raleigh NC 27609. Their phone number is 800.772.1213 or 919.790.2782.
Their office hours and directions can be found here.
Once the application is received and approved, the Social Security card is mailed to the applicant’s address 3-4 weeks after the application is accepted.
To see the International Students And Social Security Numbers Electronic Fact Sheet click here.