Center for International Programs

International Student Services

Social Security

The Social Security Number (SSN) is a unique, nine-digit number used primarily for tax record-keeping purposes, as well as for certain government benefits for citizens and permanent residents. It is also used as a form of identification on a tax form called the Form I-9 and by employers to maintain payroll records. A Social Security Number in and of itself does NOT verify work permission. Work permission for international students at Saint Joseph’s University is authorized only by the Center for International Programs (CIP) and/or the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

If you have been offered employment you will need and are entitled to a Social Security Number. F-1 and J-1 students who are not employed are not eligible for a SSN. You cannot get a SSN just to apply for a driver’s license, rent an apartment, open a bank account etc. If you are having difficulty with any of these issues please see an advisor at CIP. Students who are receiving a stipend or reduced tuition fees in exchange for teaching or other services as a Graduate Assistant or Research Assistant are eligible and required to have a Social Security Number.

To apply for a Social Security number all F-1 international students and J-1 exchange visitors will need to have proof of employment. Once you have found an on-campus job (or, for those students who are eligible, other off-campus employment) you should bring the following documents to a Social Security Office. An advisor at CIP can give you directions to the closest Social Security Office.
1. Your unexpired passport
2. Your I-94 card (small white card in your passport)
3. Your I-20 Form or DS-2019 Form
4. A letter from CIP confirming your status and offer of employment
5. Proof of employment, only one of the following:

a) A job offer letter signed by the SJU office on-campus that will be hiring you (a blank form is available to download or at CIP and should be copied onto the hiring office’s letterhead, then filled out and signed);
b) Your I-20 authorized for Curricular Practical Training or your DS-2019 authorized for Academic Training;
c) Your EAD card for Optional Practical Training;

6. A Social Security Application Form SS-5, available at the Social Security Office or online. On the form you will be asked for you mother’s maiden name on the application – this is her family name/surname before she got married.

For a printable version of how to apply for your Social Security number along with address and directions to Philadelphia Social Security Offices please clck here.

Information on applying for a Social Security card can also be found at the Social Security website.

The Social Security Administration recommends that students and exchange visitors wait at least 10 days from the date you first arrive in the United States AND at least 48 hours from the time CIP registers you in SEVIS before applying for an SSN, or the status verification can be severely delayed. You can check with an advisor to find out when you were first registered in SEVIS so that you know when to apply for a Social Security Number.

Once your status is verified, an SSN will be assigned and a Social Security Card will be sent to the address you give on the application form. If you have any questions, or if you need to know your Social Security Number as soon as possible, you can call 1-800-772-1213 on weekdays. Remember that the mere possession of a Social Security card does not give you work authorization.

If someone at the Social Security Administration tells you when you apply that they cannot accept your application, see if they are willing to give you a letter explaining the problem. If they do, bring the explanation you receive to CIP and an advisor will review it to determine whether we need to make any corrections. If not, return to CIP and speak to an advisor; we will try to help figure out what the problem is and take steps to correct it. Wait at least 48 hours before reapplying for your Social Security Number if the solution requires a SEVIS update.

FAQs regarding SSNs

Do nonimmigrant students who are authorized employment need to have their Social Security cards prior to starting work or receiving a paycheck?
No. SSA will not process the request for a Social Security number until the beginning day of the student’s authorized period of employment. However, the employer may allow the student to start working and to receive pay while the application is pending.

What is there is a mistake on my Social Security card?
Occasionally, a person will receive a Social Security card with the name misspelled, garbled or incomplete due to a keying error or a computer malfunction in the card printing process. If the application (Form SS-5) you completed to get your current card is still in the Social Security office, they may be able to resolve your problem without you having to complete another application and resubmit your evidence. You should return the incorrect card to the Social Security office. This way, the corrected card will not be counted against your yearly or lifetime replacement card limits.

What if my name changed?
If you legally change your name because of marriage, divorce, court order or any other reason, you need to tell Social Security so that you can get a replacement card. If you are working, also tell your employer. You must show a recently issued document as proof of your legal name change. If you are not a U.S. citizen, Social Security will ask to see your current immigration documents. More Detailed Information. The new card will have the same number as your previous card, but will show your new name.

What if my card is lost or stolen?
You can apply for a replacement card. More detailed information

What if my immigration status changes?
If your immigration status changed or you became a U.S. citizen, you should tell Social Security so your records can be updated. To get your immigration status or citizenship corrected, you need to show documents that prove your new status or citizenship. Only certain documents can be accepted as proof of citizenship for new and replacement cards. These include your U.S. passport, a Certificate of Naturalization or a Certificate of Citizenship. If you are not a U.S. citizen, Social Security will ask to see your current immigration documents.

How can I protect my Social Security number?
You should treat your Social Security number as confidential information and avoid giving it out unnecessarily. You should keep your Social Security card in a safe place with your other important papers. Do not carry it with you unless you need to show it to an employer or service provider. Giving your number is voluntary even when you are asked for the number directly. If requested, you should ask:
• Why your number is needed;
• How your number will be used;
• What happens if you refuse; and
• What law requires you to give your number.
The answers to these questions can help you decide if you want to give your Social Security number.

Do non-immigrant students have to pay Social Security taxes on their wages?
Non-immigrant students are exempt on wages paid for services performed within the United States as long as such services:

  • Are allowed by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) for F and M nonimmigrants
  • Are performed to carry out the purposes for which the visas were issued

Exempt employment for students includes:

  • On-campus student employment up to 20 hours a week (40 hours during summer vacations)
  • Off-campus student employment allowed by USCIS
  • Practical training, on or off campus
  • Employment as a professor, teacher or researcher
  • Employment as a physician, au pair, or summer camp worker

This exemption does not apply to:

  • Unauthorized employment
  • Employment not closely connected to the student's academic program
  • Students that change to an immigration status which is not exempt or to a special protected status
  • Nonimmigrant students who become resident aliens

Can my spouse apply for a Social Security Number?
If your spouse is in the United States on an F-2 visa he or she is not eligible for a Social Security Number. Individuals on a tourist visa are also not eligible. J-2 spouses are eligible for a Social Security Number but they also need to find employment before they can apply.