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 an SSn. Students in F-1 or J-1 status who are not currently employed are not eligible to apply for an SSn. F-2 dependents are not eligible for an SSn; J-2 dependents are only eligible if they’ve applied for and received work authorization from USCIS. 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 an 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 an 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)
U.S. Address Format Information
Once you apply for your Social Security Number (SSN), a physical card will be mailed to you at the address you provide on your Social Security application. You MUST provide your US address in the correct format in order to successfully receive your card. Incorrect addresses may cause delays or even require you to reapply in person. For example, a common issue is failure to include an apartment number if your address includes one. Please pay careful attention to the following address information:
Line 1: Street number followed by street name
Line 2: Apartment number (if you have one)
Line 3: City, State and Zipcode
So the proper address format looks like:
1887 Wolfpack Way
Raleigh, NC 27695
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 2 of your 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 Security 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.
If employed under Academic Training an updated DS-2019 that indicates Academic Training authorization and an Academic Training authorization letter from OIS must be provided.
J-1 Student Interns
J-1 Student Interns also need a social security letter from OIS to apply for an SSn. New Student Interns will be provided with an SSn letter at the time of their required OIS check-in. If you a current Student Intern but do not yet have a letter from OIS in support of your SSn application, you can request a letter by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org. The letter takes several business days to process and you will be emailed when it is ready to be picked up.
J-1 Research Scholars / Short-term Scholars / Professors
J-1 Research Scholars / Short-term Scholars / Professors do not need additional documentation from OIS in support of the SSn application. In addition to the standard required documents needed to apply for an SSn, Exchange Visitors in any of these three categories should also bring an original ink-signed offer/invitation letter on the host department’s letterhead.
How to apply for an SSn on your own
The Social Security Administration requires you apply in person with your original documents (not copies). 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.