A Social Security Number (SSN) is used to track earnings. It's also used for a wide range of purposes such as applying for a background checks, credit card and loans.
You can only apply for an SSN as an F-1 student if you have a job offer or applying for post-completion OPT.
Please refer to the Social Security Administration document International Students and Social Security Numbers.
Once you have an SSN, you keep the 9 digit number for life. However, you can only apply for a replacement card if you meet the criteria for card issuance (for an F-1 student, this means you must be currently employed). Please keep your social security card in a safe place and be cautious about sharing your SSN because it could be used for identity theft. SSNs are often used for credit checks and background checks.
To obtain a social security number as an F-1 student, follow these steps:
You must have an active record in SEVIS. For new students, your International Student Advisor needs to update your SEVIS record from initial to active. If you are a new student and you need to apply for an SSN earlier, please contact ISSS to make sure your SEVIS record is already active.
Obtain your work authorization and/or complete your employment verification form:
On-campus employment: You can apply for your SSN no earlier than 30 days before your on-campus employment start date. When you have found an on-campus job, fill out "Social Security Letter Request for On Campus Employment" form available in the ISSS Portal.
On this form, there is an Approver function. On-campus employer must confirm on-campus employment offer details. On-campus employer will receive an email which looks like this. The link is safe to click and will take them to an Approver form which looks like this. Please confirm details and click Approve.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT): You can apply for your SSN no earlier than 30 days before your CPT start date. When you have an internship offer, fill out "CPT Request" form available in the ISSS Portal. There is a question regarding SSN in the form. If you indicate, "No, I do not have a SSN". International Student Advisor will issue you a support letter which you can take to the SS Administration office to apply for a SSN along with your CPT approved I-20.
Optional Practical Training (OPT): The form, I-765, Application for Employment Authorization students file to apply for OPT include questions that allow students to apply for SSN at the same time.
Visit the ISSS Employment Page for more details
Visit Social Security Administration office closest to your local address. You can locate an office and the office hours by using the Social Security Office Locator. The closest office to our campus is located near the Tacoma Mall at 2608 S 47th St, Tacoma, WA 98409.
Bring with you:
- Completed Social Security Card Application
- Valid passport
- Valid visa (OK if expired) or change of status approval notice
- I-94 (download and print out I-94 by visiting this page)
- Valid I-20 (most recent)
- A letter from ISSS indicating a on-campus job offer OR I-20 with CPT authorization on page 2+ a Letter from ISSS OR I-20 plus EAD card showing approved OPT
Experiencing Delay in Receiving SS Card ?
Are you concerned that you applied for a Social Security number but your Social Security Card has not arrived in the mail before first day of your work? Do not worry, the delay is very common!
Did you know the Social Security Administration does not require students to have Social Security Card before they start working? Refer to the following documents from the SS Administration for more details.