I’m an international student. Can I get a social security number? And How?

by Su Hsiang Yu | In Immigration Assistance and Information, MPOWER VIP | 26 June 2019 | Updated on: July 22nd, 2020

The question “How to get a social security number as an international student?” is often asked across different international student groups.

The answer is that you can definitely apply for a social security number (SSN) as an F-1 or M-1 visa student. The process of applying for an SSN may sound complicated and tedious; however, if you read this carefully, you can apply and get your SSN without wasting time and energy.

Of course, you need to get a job in order to apply for an SSN. But, don’t be afraid of that. Even working on campus part time makes you eligible, so it’s not that hard to become employed. After you find a job, you’ll need to take all your documents to prove your identity, immigration status, and work eligibility to your local Social Security Administration in person to file your application for an SSN card. Let me walk you through all the documents you may need!

1. Prove your identity

A valid passport is definitely the must-have document when you apply for an SSN as a foreigner. In addition, depending on your situation, you may also need to provide one of the following documents:

  • I-551 Permanent Resident Card; or
  • I-766 Employment Authorization Document a work permit) from the Department of Homeland Security; or
  • I-94 Arrival/Departure Record

2. Prove your immigration status

If you are an F-1 or M-1 student, you must bring your I-20.
If you are a J-1 or J-2 exchange visitor, you must bring your DS-2019.

You will also need one of the following documents to prove your status:

  • I-551 Lawful Permanent Resident Card or Machine Readable Immigrant Visa; or
  • I-766 Employment Authorization Document; or
  • I-94 Arrival/Departure Record

3. Prove your work eligibility

If you are a foreign worker, you will need your valid foreign passport along with one of the following:

  • I-94 Arrival/Departure Record; or
  • I-766 Employment Authorization Document or work permit

If you are an F-1 student and are eligible to work on campus, you must have:

  • Unexpired I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status; and
  • Employment evidence such as a letter including:
    1. Your job title
    2. Your employment start date
    3. The number of hours you are, or will be, working; and
    4. Your supervisor’s name and telephone number

If you are an F-1 student and eligible to work in curricular practical training, you must have your I-20 with the employment page completed and signed by your designated school official.

If you are an F-1 student and have a work permit I-766, you must bring it.

If you are a J-1 student, student intern, or an international visitor, you must provide a letter from your sponsor. The letter should be on sponsor letterhead with an original signature that authorizes your employment.


If these lists are still too overwhelming, you can look at the charts below instead. Just bear in mind that the safest and easiest way to obtain your SSN is to bring all the documents with you in order to prove your eligibility.

Must-Have Documents
(Bring all the documents you have from the list below)
Foreigner Valid passport I-151
I-766 (EAD)


If you want to get a job and the SSN at the same time, you can’t miss this! 


Can F-1 visa students get a SSN?

If you have F-1 visa status and have found a job (on-campus or off-campus), you are eligible to apply for a SSN.

How can an international student get a SSN?

To get a SSN, you are required to apply in person at a Social Security Administration office. You should carry the original documents proving your identity, immigration status and work eligibility.

Can I work in the US without a Social Security Number?

You can start working without a SSN, but you'll have to apply and get a SSN within 90 days of starting your job.


Author: View all post by Su Hsiang Yu

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