Social Security Numbers for International Students and Scholars

A Social Security Number (SSN) is a 9-digit employee identification number, issued by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA).  Eligibility for a Social Security Number is based upon a person's eligibility to work in the United States. Those eligible for a Social Security Number include U.S. Citizens, Permanent Residents, and qualified foreign nationals, including, in certain circumstances, students in F-1 or J-1 student or scholar status.

If you are an F-1 or J-1 student and you must apply for a SSN, please read the following information carefully. Please note that application requirements differ, depending on your immigration status.

Purpose of a Social Security Number

A SSN is required by the U.S. government for tax and employment reporting purposes.  It is used, for example, to report an employee's earnings or a student's taxable scholarship benefits.  However, it is often used as a matter of convenience for a variety of other purposes unrelated to its official purpose, such as opening telephone, utility, or bank accounts.  While having a SSN is convenient for these reasons, SSNs are issued only to those individuals who are employed and/or have tax reporting requirements.

NOTE: Simply having a Social Security Number does NOT grant you legal authorization to work in the U.S.  However, if you have been granted legal authorization to work and are working, you are required to apply for and obtain a Social Security Number.  If you have difficulty opening a bank or other types of accounts because you do not have a SSN, please contact OISA.

F-1/J-1 Student Eligibility for a SSN

F-1 and J-1 students under Wesleyan sponsorship may apply for SSNs, provided they meet the following SSA eligibility requirements:

  1. Valid immigration documents including a valid passport, valid I-20 or DS-2019, and an I-94 card or electronic I-94 notated "F-1 D/S" or "J-1 D/S"
  2. Full-time registration at Wesleyan University
  3. F-1 and J-1 Studentsare required to show evidence of employment or authorization for curricular practical training (CPT) or optional practical training (OPT).

If you are in F-1 or J-1 status and do not have lawful employment, you are ineligible to apply for a SSN.  This includes applications for replacment SSN cards.  J-1 students under the sponsorship of an external organization such as IIE, LASPAU, or AMIDEAST, should obtain a SSN letter from their sponsor.

SSN Application Procedures

STEP 1:  Obtain Evidence of Employment

To apply for a SSN, you must first obtain valid employment authorization.  Authorization is based on one of the following types of employment. Make sure that you meet the eligibility requirements of employment. 

  • On-Campus Employment:  Obtain a F-1 On-Campus Employer Letter from your Wesleyan hiring department supervisor.  The employment letter must be printed on department letterhead, signed in the original by your hiring department supervisor, and must include the following information:
    • Your name and nature of job or job title (e.g., research assistant, library assistant, proofreader, etc.)
    • Your estimated or actual start date
    • Your estimated or actual number of hours per week you are expected to work
    • Your hiring department name and supervisor's name, title, phone number, email and signature
  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT):  Obtain an updated Form I-20 from Wesleyan showing that you have been authorized to engage in F-1 Curricular Practical Training (employment based in an academic internship/fieldwork/practicum)
  • Optional Practical Training (OPT) or other off-campus employment:  Obtain a valid, unexpired Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) from U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services, authorizing you to work under OPT, international organization employment, or severe economic hardship employment.

STEP 2:  Obtain a F-1 Status Verification Letter

If you want to apply for a SSN based on on-campus employment, you must submit copies of your documents to the Office of International Student Affairs (OISA) to obtain a F-1 Status Verification Form.  You should request an F-1 Status Verification Letter in your International Student and Scholar (ISS) Portal.  OISA will issue a verification letter to certify that you have secured on-campus employment and are a full-time student in good standing.  A F-1 Status Verification Form is not required if your employment is based on CPT, OPT, international organization employment, or severe economic hardship employment. 

STEP 3:  Visit a Social Security Office to Apply for your SSN

Take the following documents to the Middletown Social Security Administration (SSA) office:

  • Completed Form SS-5 Social Security Application (do not remove the Wesleyan address from line 16).  Most likely you will not fill in 9B, 10B, 11, 12, and 13, but you must include your mother’s maiden name and your father’s name. 
  • Valid, unexpired Passport
  • Valid F-1 Visa
  • I-20
  • Most recent I-94 card or electronic I-94
  • If you are working on-campus: Supervisor signed F-1 On-Campus Employer Letter and OISA signed F-1 Status Verification Form
  • If you are engaged in CPT: Your I-20 must have an authorization for CPT printed on page 3 of the form
  • If you are engaged in OPT: You must also bring your unexpired Employment Authorization (EAD) card

STEP 4:  Email your SSN Application Receipt to ICT

When you submit your application and present your documents and forms to SSA, your documents will be reviewed by a SSA examiner. 

  • Once your application is accepted, request an application receipt so that you can show your employer that you have applied for a SSN. 
  • Email your application receipt to Christine at
You can expect to receive your SSN within 3-4 weeks after applying, although processing times vary.  If you do not hear from International Compensation and Taxation within 30 business days after you submitted your application to SSA, please email Christine at

NOTE:  OISA currently recommends that you do not apply for a SSN more than 30 days prior to the start of your on-campus employment, CPT authorization, or the beginning date of your EAD card.  The SSA has rejected applications submitted more than 30 days before the start of employment as too early.

For additional information about SSA, check the SSA website.

Middletown Social Security Administration
99 East Main Street
Suite 800
Middletown, CT 06457
(877) 692-3145

Protect your Identity and Social Security Number

Protect your SSN card and number from loss and identity theft. DO NOT carry the card with you.  Keep it in a secure location and only take it with you when you must show the card, e.g. to obtain a new job,
open a new bank account.  DO NOT allow others to use your social security number as their own.  For
more information, check here.