Office of International Programs (OIP)


 

Why would I need a Social Security card and number?

Social Security Numbers (SSNs) are primarily intended to identify participants in the US federal government's Social Security Program. SSNs are generally assigned to people who are authorized to work in the United States and are used to report your wages to the government. Social Security will not assign you a number just to enroll in a college or school. If you receive compensation while in the U.S. for such things as employment, scholarship, stipend, loans, etc., you may need an SSN for federal income tax filing and related tax compliance.

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Can F-1 students apply for an SSN?

If you are currently in F-1 status and have found an on-campus job or have been authorized to work off-campus (such as CPT, OPT, or Economic Hardship), you should be eligible to apply for an SSN.

See International Student and Social Security Numbers at the Social Security Administration website for more information.

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How do I obtain an SSN?

You will need to apply for an SSN by visiting your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office. The SSA has its own policy stating what documents an F-1 student needs to apply for an SSN. The required documents change based on your type of employment authorization.

What should an F-1 student with an on-campus job take to the SSA office to apply?

  • Valid passport
  • Original SF State I-20
  • I-94 admissions verification printout from http://www.cbp.gov/i94 (If you entered the U.S. prior to April 30, 2013, provide a front and back copy of the I-94 card stapled to inside of your passport)
  • On-campus job offer letter from your SF State employer (see sample letter)
  • Support letter from OIP (request this letter from OIP in advance). F-1 students must be enrolled full-time prior to requesting the OIP letter.

 

What should an F-1 student who has been authorized for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) take to the SSA office to apply?

  • Valid passport
  • Original SF State I-20 with CPT authorization on the third page
  • I-94 admissions verification printout from http://www.cbp.gov/i94 (If you entered the U.S. prior to April 30, 2013, provide a front and back copy of the I-94 card stapled to inside of your passport)

 

What should an F-1 student who has been authorized for Optional Practical Training (OPT) or Economic Hardship take to the SSA office to apply?

  • Valid passport
  • Original SF State I-20 with OPT authorization on the third page
  • I-94 admissions verification printout from http://www.cbp.gov/i94 (If you entered the U.S. prior to April 30, 2013, provide a front and back copy of the I-94 card stapled to inside of your passport)
  • Valid EAD

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I will be working on campus, so how do I request an SSN support letter from OIP?

  1. After enrolling full-time for the semester in which you plan to work (only summer term enrollment is optional), submit the following documents at the OIP front desk:
    • F-1 Document Request form
    • Photocopy of your most current SF State I-20 with immigration stamp (pages 1 and 3 only)
    • I-94 admissions verification printout from http://www.cbp.gov/i94 (If you entered the U.S. prior to April 30, 2013, provide a front and back copy of the I-94 card stapled to inside of your passport)
    • Photocopy of your valid passport identification page
    • Original on-campus job offer letter from your SF State employer (see sample letter)
  2.  

  3. The OIP advisor will verify your F-1 status. If you are eligible, the advisor will issue an SSN Support letter. See document processing time.
  4. Once the Support Letter is ready, OIP will contact you to return to the OIP front desk to pick up both original letters.

 

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When can I apply for the SSN?

New F-1 students must be physically present in the US for at least 10 days before they apply for an SSN.

If your employment authorization is either on-campus or based on CPT, the SSA will not process an SSN application if it is more than 30 days in advance of the scheduled employment start date.

If your employment authorization is EAD-based (OPT or Economic Hardship), the employment start date must already have been reached before SSA will process the SSN application.

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Where do I go to apply?

To find the SSA office nearest you, visit the SSA website at http://www.ssa.gov and click on "Find a Social Security Office" on the left-hand side of the page.

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What happens at the SSA office?

You will submit an application for a Social Security Card and show your supporting documentation. The SSA will process your application, and if it is approved, the card should be mailed to you within 10 days.

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Is there an SSN application fee?

No, the Social Security application is free.

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How often will I need to apply for an SSN?

An SSN is valid for a person's entire lifetime, so it is a one-time application. Your assigned number will never change. If you lose your SSN card, you can apply for a replacement card (see OIP advisor for assistance).

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SSN and opening a US bank account

You are not required to have an SSN in order to open a US bank account or for most other financial transactions. Simply explain to the bank that you are in F-1 non-immigrant status and ask to complete the IRS Form W-8 "Certificate of Foreign Status.

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SSN and applying for a California Driver License

According to the California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV), if you are legally present in the U.S., but ineligible for an SSN, you are exempt from the DMV SSN requirement.

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Employment and Social Security taxes

Students in F-1 status and whose income is earned in support of the objectives for which they were admittted to the U.S. should not have social security (FICA) taxes withheld from their pay, as they are exempt from FICA taxes as long as they have received employment authorization.

 

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