International Student Services

Social Security Information for International Students

A Social Security number (SSN) is issued to track earnings over a worker’s lifetime. It is a unique nine-digit number used for taxpayer identification, income reporting and record keeping purposes. Once issued to an individual, the number is valid for a lifetime and should be kept secure — share this only with credible agencies and financial institutions. Students holding F-1 status who are employed in the United States must apply for a Social Security number.

In order to issue a Social Security number, the Social Security Administration requires evidence that you are eligible to work in the United States, that you are a full-time student, and that you have received a formal offer of on-campus employment, or have been authorized for off-campus employment through Curricular Practical Training, Optional Practical Training, or Academic Training. A Social Security number is not required to obtain a driver’s license, cell phone, credit card, insurance, admission to an academic institution or other "non-work" reasons. The Social Security Administration must also verify your immigration documents and status with Immigration before issuing the Social Security number. Note that new students may not apply for an SSN earlier than 10 business days after arriving in the United States. The Social Security number itself is not a work permit.

How to apply for a Social Security Card

In order to apply for a Social Security Card you must have a job offer. Typically, only international students with work authorization and a job offer can apply for a social security number. Goodwin on-campus jobs for international students are limited. Read more about International Students and Social Security Numbers.

You will need to visit the closest Social Security office and bring all required documentation based on your circumstance along with the Social Security Card Application Form.

Students who are not eligible for a Social Security number but would like to obtain a Connecticut Driver’s License will need to obtain a "letter of denial" from the SSA. The International Programs Office will provide you with a Student Status Verification Letter to bring with you to the local office to obtain this letter. The closest Social Security Office is located at 478 Burnside Avenue in East Hartford. Visit the Social Security Office locator for additional contact information.

Application Recommendations

F-1 Students Authorized for Curricular Practical Training
Apply for a Social Security number in person at a local Social Security Administration office. Apply no earlier than 30 days before your scheduled employment start date. Bring with you:

  • Form I-20 (updated and endorsed for practical training)
  • Passport
  • I-94 card; or, a copy of your F-1 admission stamp in your passport and a printout of your electronic I-94 information, which can be obtained on the Department of Homeland Security website
  • Form SS-5

F-1 Students Authorized for Optional Practical Training
Apply for a Social Security number in person at a local Social Security Administration office. Apply on or after the start date on your EAD card. Bring with you:

  • Form I-20 (updated and endorsed for practical training)
  • Passport
  • I-94 card; or, a copy of your F-1 admission stamp in your passport and a printout of your electronic I-94 information, which can be obtained on the Department of Homeland Security website
  • EAD card
  • Form SS-5

Frequently Asked Questions

What does it cost?
There is no charge for a Social Security number and card.

How long does it take to get a Social Security number?
The Social Security Administration will mail your number and card as soon as all of your immigration information has been verified. It can take 2-4 weeks or more.

What if my card is lost or stolen?
You can replace your card for free if it is lost or stolen. However, you are limited to three replacement cards in a year and 10 during your lifetime. Legal name changes and other exceptions do not count toward these limits. For example, changes in nonimmigrant status that require card updates may not count toward these limits.

To request a replacement card:
  • Complete an Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5)
  • Present recently issued photo identification to show your identity (passport, Washington state identification card)
  • Show evidence of your current lawful nonimmigrant status (visa, I-20/ DS-2019, I-94)
  • Complete a new Social Security Verification form (if you are employed on campus) Your replacement card will have the same name and number as your previous card.

What if my immigration status or citizenship changes?
If your immigration status changes or you become a legal permanent resident (LPR), you should inform the Social Security Administration office so that your records can be updated. You will need to present documents that prove your new status.

Are my earnings taxable for Social Security purposes?
As a student in F-1 status your earnings from authorized employment are generally not taxable for social security purposes. Please review the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Publications 515 and 519 for details about employment taxes payable on the earnings of a nonresident aliens. View more information for ALL international students and federal requirements for filing taxes while studying in the USA.

Can I start working before I receive a Social Security card?
As long as you have authorization (on-campus work, CPT, or OPT), yes: you can start to work while your SSN application is still processing. You should ensure your employer follows the correct instructions for allowing you to begin work without the SSN. The Social Security Administration’s publication, “Foreign Workers and Social Security Numbers,” has additional information.