What is an SSN and how to obtain it

An SSN (Social Security number) is a social security number issued by the US Social Security Administration (SSA). In this article, we will tell you why students with an F-1 visa need it and how they can get it.
An SSN is used to track a worker’s earnings throughout their life.

What do people need an SSN for?

  • On-campus work or paid internship
The SSN itself is not a work permit, but it is necessary for employment.
  • Paying Taxes
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) requires employers to provide information about their employees' wages via SSN.
  • Opening a bank account
Many banks require an SSN if you want to open an account or get a credit card. Although some of them use other identification methods, it may take some time to find such a bank.
  • Credit history
The SSN is used to build a credit history in the United States. It might be of help when obtaining credit cards, rental agreements, and other financial services.
  • Driver's license
In some states, you can't get a driver's license without a Social Security number, but even where it's possible, an SSN will make it easier.
  • Renting accommodation
With an SSN, you have more options when it comes to renting accommodation, as some landlords ask for this information to check your creditworthiness and verify your identity.


If a student does not work on campus but receives a taxable scholarship, they must apply for an ITIN (Individual Tax Identification Number) to pay taxes.

Requirements for applying for an SSN

To obtain an SSN, an F-1 student must:
  • be a full-time student for at least 20 hours per week;
  • have an offer for an internship (CPT, OPT, Academi Training) or on-campus work.

How to get an SSN

Collect the following documents:
  • Form I-20 from the educational institution, proving that you are indeed studying there full-time, and a photocopy of it.
  • Form I-94, confirming entry into the United States, and a photocopy of it.
  • Form SS-5, filled out in blue or black ink. It is an application for an SSN. You can download the form from the official website.
  • Foreign passport and a copy of the pages with a photo, expiration date and stamp with a US visa.
  • Letter from the employer indicating information about the nature of the work/internship.
With all the documents, go to the nearest SSA (Social Security Administration) office. You can find the address on the official website.
Be sure to get an application receipt. You can use it for employment, you don't have to wait for your SSN delivery. The SSN will be sent to you by mail. The delivery takes about 4—6 weeks.