Social Security Number

What is a social security number (SSN)?

How to Apply for a SSN

You are eligible to apply for a social security number if you have F-1 or J-1 student visa status AND one of the following is true:

  • You are currently working on campus or have an assistantship appointment on campus OR you have obtained off-campus work authorization.
  • You have off-campus work authorization, you are within 30 days of the start date of your CPT, or on or after the start date of your OPT.
  • You have at least two more weeks left before the end of your employment on or off campus.
  • You are a J2 dependent, and you have applied for and received a work card from USCIS.

If you are in F-1 or J-1 status and none of the above apply to you, you are not eligible for a SSN.  F2 dependents are not eligible. If you are not eligible, here's what to do when businesses ask for your SSN.

If you are not eligible for the SSN, and you are receiving non-wage payments from Cornell such as fellowship or a grant, here's how to apply for an alternative tax payer ID (ITIN).

To apply for a social security number:

Step One:

If you are an F-1 or J-1 student and you have an on-campus job or assistantship appointment, obtain a letter from ISSO stating that you have the necessary on-campus employment or assistantship appointment to be eligible for a social security number. J-2 dependents do NOT need this letter. If you have off-campus work authorization, you do NOT need ISSO letter, whether you are F-1, J-1, or J-2.

Step Two

If you are an F-1 or J-1 student and you have an on-campus job or assistantship appointment, obtain either pay stubs from your current on campus appointment or a letter from your appointing department (see below). If you have off-campus work authorization, you do NOT need the paystubs or the letter from your employer. J-2 dependents do NOT need paystubs or the letter.

Hiring Department Letter (F-1 and J-1 Students on-campus employment)

  • The letter from your appointing department should be on department letterhead and it should include the following:
  • The letter should begin by stating, “This is to confirm that [your name] will be [or “is”] appointed as a [your job or assistantship], starting on [start date].”
  • Description of the nature of your duties (research, filing library books, food service, etc.)
  • The number of hours per week you are expected to be at your appointment (Remember students may not be appointed more than 20 hours during the fall and spring semesters.)
  • The employer identification number (EIN).
  • The employer’s contact information including name and telephone number of your immediate supervisor.
  • An original signature, the job title of the signer and the date of the signature

Step Three

After you have been in the U.S. for AT LEAST 10 days, and your job or appointment has started, take the documents listed below to the Social Security Administration Office. You will receive your Social Security card in the mail within 2-3 weeks.

EITHER:

  • OFF-campus work authorization

OR:

  • ISSO Certification of F-1 or J-1 student visa status and employment authorization
  • Paystubs from on campus job OR employer letter

AND:

In general, you will receive your social security number within 2-3 weeks.

Location: 127 W. State St., 2nd floor (in the Greenstate Building)
Phone: (866) 706-8289 (Ithaca) OR: (800) 772-1213 (National Call Center)
Hours: Mon, Tue, Thu & Fri, 9:00 am - 3:00 pm; Wed, 9:00 am - 12:00 pm (except for Federal holidays.)

For more information on a SSN for other non-immigrant visas, visit the Social Security Administration's website.