Center for International Services & Programs

Social Security Number (SSN)

Social Security Number

A Social Security number (SSN) is issued to track earnings over a worker’s lifetime. Students holding F-1 and J-1 status who are employed in the U.S. must apply for a Social Security number. Dependents in F-2 status are not eligible for a Social Security number. (Students who will not work on campus but who receive a taxable scholarship can apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) for tax purposes).

In order to issue a Social Security number, the Social Security Administration requires evidence that you are eligible to work in the U.S., that you are a full-time student, and that you have received a formal offer of on-campus employment, or have been authorized for off-campus employment through Curricular Practical Training, Optional Practical Training, or Academic Training. A Social Security number is not required to obtain a driver’s license, cell phone, credit card, insurance, admission to an academic institution or other “non-work” reasons. The Social Security Administration must also verify your immigration documents and status with Immigration before issuing the Social Security number. Note that new students may not apply for an SSN earlier than 10 business days after arriving in the U.S. The Social Security number itself is not a work permit.

The Cleveland Ohio Social Security Office is located on the corner of 1240 E. 9th St. and Lakeside Avenue, across the street from Cleveland City Hall.

The office hours are 9:00 am to 4:00 pm, Monday through Friday.

The toll free number is 1-800-772-1213.

How to Apply

F-1 Students With On-Campus Employment

  • Register for full-time credits. “Full-time” is 12 credits for undergraduates and 9 credits for graduate students.
  • Update your local address through your CampusNet, even if it is only a temporary address.
  • Print and complete the PDF iconCISP Social Security Verification Form with your hiring official/supervisor.
  • Submit the completed CISP Social Security Verification Form to the CISP front desk in Berkman Hall 412.
  • Allow 10 business days for CSP processing. CISP will verify your full-time status as well as on-campus employment eligibility and will sign the form.

You will receive an email from CISP when the form is ready to pick up. New students: your CISP adviser will update your record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). Wait at least 10 business days after arriving in the U.S. before requesting a Social Security number.

Apply in person at a local Social Security Administration office. Apply no earlier than 30 days before your scheduled employment start date.

Bring with you:

  • Completed and signed CISP Social Security Verification Form
  • Form I-20
  • Valid passport (along with old passport if it contains your F-1 visa)
  • I-94 card; or, a copy of your F-1 admission stamp in your passport and a printout of your electronic I-94 information, which can be obtained at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/
  • Form SS-5

F-1 Students Authorized for Curricular Practical Training:

Apply for a Social Security number in person at a local Social Security Administration office. Apply no earlier than 30 days before your scheduled employment start date. Bring with you:

  • Form I-20 (updated and endorsed for practical training)
  • Passport
  • I-94 card; or, a copy of your F-1 admission stamp in your passport and a printout of your electronic I-94 information, which can be obtained at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/
  • Form SS-5

F-1 Students Authorized for Optional Practical Training:

Apply for a Social Security number in person at a local Social Security Administration office. Apply on or after the start date on your EAD card. Bring with you:

  • Form I-20 (updated and endorsed for practical training)
  • Passport
  • I-94 card; or, a copy of your F-1 admission stamp in your passport and a printout of your electronic I-94 information, which can be obtained at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/
  • Form SS-5
  • EAD Card
Helpful Websites
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:

  • Complete an Application For A Social Security Card (Form SS-5)
  • Present recently issued photo identification to show your identity (passport, Washington state identification card)
  • Show evidence of your current lawful nonimmigrant status (visa, I-20/ DS-2019, I-94)
  • Complete a new Social Security Verification form (if you are employed on campus)
  • 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 or J-1 status your earnings from authorized employment are generally not taxable for social security purposes.

Please review the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Publications 515 and 519 for details about employment taxes payable on the earnings of a nonresident aliens.

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

As long as you have authorization (on-campus work, CPT, or OPT), yes: you can start to work while your SSN application is still processing. You should ensure your employer follows the correct instructions for allowing you to begin work without the SSN. The Social Security Administration’s publication, “Foreign Workers and Social Security Numbers,” has additional information.