Social Security Numbers | Current International Students

A Social Security number (SSN) is a unique, 9-digit identification number issued by the US Social Security Administration (SSA) used to track earnings over a worker's lifetime. F-1 students who are employed in the US must apply for a SSN. Social Security numbers are only issued to students who have received a formal offer of on-campus employment or have been authorized for off-campus employment.

While a SSN is not required to obtain a driver's license, cell phone, credit card, insurance, or for other "non-work" related issues, a SSN is asked for on many forms. If you do not have a SSN and face difficulties with a form or application, please contact the Office of International Education for support. Please be advised, however, that in most cases OIE can only provide education regarding your SSN status and cannot force a company to change their requirements.

The Social Security Administration office nearest to Carroll University is located just a few blocks from campus:

Social Security Administration Office
707 N Grand Avenue
Waukesha, WI 53186

This is a short walk or you may request the Public Safety shuttle.

Application Process

Steps to Obtain a SSN:

  1. Once you have obtained an offer of employment or placement with an on-campus employer, request an offer letter signed from your supervisor on campus letterhead. See the sample letter in the SSN Guide and Sample Offer Letter.
  2. Submit a copy of that letter and the Letter Request Form to request an Employment Eligibility Letter from the Office of International Education. You will need this letter to verify your eligibility for employment as an F-1 student.
  3. Complete Form SS-5 Application For A Social Security Card.
  4. Bring the following documents with you to the nearest Social Security Administration Office:
    • At least two documents that establish your agent and identity including your valid passport and one additional document establishing your identity.
    • A copy for your Form I-94 (https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/). If you received a prior approval for a change of status to F-1 status, show the I-797 Notice of Action, too.
    • A copy for your Form I-20 noting your status as "continued attendance."
    • The signed DSO Employment Eligibility letter and offer letter from your supervisor.

Curricular Practical Training

You may apply for a SSN for Curricular Practical Training once an advisor in the Office of International Education has completed your CPT authorization by returning your CPT authorized I-20 form. Apply no earlier than 30 days before your scheduled employment start date.

  1. Complete Form SS-5 Application For A Social Security Card.
  2. Bring the following documents with you to the nearest Social Security Administration Office:
    • At least two documents that establish your agent and identity including your valid passport and one additional document establishing your identity.
      • If your current F-1 visa is in an old passport, print that passport as well.
    • A copy for your Form I-94 (https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/). If you received a prior approval for a change of status to F-1 status, show the I-797 Notice of Action, too.
    • A copy for your Form I-20 (updated and endorsed for practical training)

Optional Practical Training

You may apply for a SSN for Optional Practical Training on or after the start date on your EAD card.

  1. Complete Form SS-5 Application For A Social Security Card.
  2. Bring the following documents with you to the nearest Social Security Administration Office:
    • At least two documents that establish your agent and identity including your valid passport and one additional document establishing your identity.
      • If your current F-1 visa is in an old passport, print that passport as well.
    • A copy for your Form I-94 (https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/). If you received a prior approval for a change of status to F-1 status, show the I-797 Notice of Action, too.
    • A copy for your Form I-20 (updated and endorsed for practical training)
    • EAD Card

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:

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 Tax Information page for more information.

Can I start working before I receive a Social Security card?

Yes, you can start to work on-campus (provided that you enroll full-time or are on an annual vacation quarter) and off-campus with authorization from OIE. However, it is recommended by the Business Office department that you apply for a Social Security number immediately.

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