Social Security Number

What is a Social Security number (SSN)?

Social Security numbers (SSN) are primarily intended to identify participants in the federal government's social security program, which provides retirement and disability benefits to workers and their families. However, it should be noted that they are widely used for administrative and identification purposes. The SSN is issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

The Social Security Administration holds the view that a Social Security Number should be issued only for employment reasons. It is not intended to facilitate the issuance of credit cards, cell phones, bank accounts.

(This attachment lists some companies that offer plans for students who do not have a SSN.)

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Who is eligible for a Social Security number (SSN)?

  • F-1 students are eligible for a Social Security Number only if one of the following apply:

    • Student has been issued an Employment Authorization Document /EAD by the USCIS (United States Citizenship and Immigration Services)

    • Student has an I-20 endorsed for Curricular Practical Training.

    • Student is currently employed on campus or has a job offer to do so.

  • All J-1 Exchange Visitors are, at this time, eligible for a Social Security Number.

  • J-2 visa-holders qualify for a SSN only after having obtained a work permit (EAD) from the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

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Who does NOT qualify for a Social Security number (SSN)?

  • F-2 visa holders (dependents of F-1 visa holders).

  • F-1 graduate students on scholarships or fellowships

  • F-1 students who are not currently employed and do not have a job offer.

  • F-1 undergraduate students on full financial aid who are not currently employed and do not have a job offer.

  • J-2 visa holders who do not have an EAD (USCIS working authorization)

However, if you are in one of the above categories you will be eligible for an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number).

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STUDENTS:

How do I apply for a Social Security number (SSN)?

F-1 students must submit in person to the Social Security Administration the following documents in order to be considered for a Social Security number:

NOTE: All new international students should be able to apply for a driver's license and Social Security Number (if eligible) after November 1.

ONLY if you need to apply for these services earlier, submit a Student Validation Request. (http://www.stanford.edu/dept/icenter/validation2.fb).

Do not submit this form until you have attended a Maintaining Legal Status session and updated your SEVIS(US) address in Axess.

We will validate records on Fridays (September 6, 13, 20, 27, October 4, 11).  Your record will be validated if your request is received by 8 am on the dates above. If you miss this deadline, your record will be validated on the following Friday.  You can visit DMV/SSA 10 days after the validation date.

1. A completed Form SS-5: Application for a Social Security Card

2. At least two documents that establish your age, identity and alien status:

  1. Passport that has been issued at least one year prior to the date that you apply for the SSN. If it has not, your birth certificate may also be required or your previous passport.
  2. I-20 (Certificate of Eligibility for F-1 student status).

3. A current I-94 card/electronic record, also known as the Arrival/Departure record.  (This I-94 card should be stamped with the correct notation "F-1 D/S”)

4. Evidence of SSN eligibility, which must be one of the following:

  1. EAD (The EAD start date must be valid before approaching the Social Security Office.)
  2. I-20 showing unexpired CPT endorsement
  3. For on campus employment, 2 letters are needed:
    1. A letter from the on-campus employer addressed to the Social Security Administration– a sample letter is available here
    2. A letter issued by the Bechtel International Center confirming your F-1 student status.

Location and directions to Social Security offices >>

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J-1 students (those whose DS-2019 shows 'student' as the category in section 4) must submit in person to the SSA the following documents in order to be considered for a Social Security Number:

1. A completed Form SS-5: Application for a Social Security number.

2. At least two documents that establish your age, identity and alien status:

  • Passport that has been issued at least one year prior to the date that you apply for the SSN. If it has not, your birth certificate may also be required or your previous passport.
  • DS-2019 (Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) status).

3.   A current I-94 card/electronic record, also known as the Arrival/Departure record.  (This I-94 card should be stamped with the correct notation "J-1 D/S.")

4.   A letter from your employer.

5. A letter issued by the Bechtel International Center confirming your student status.

Instructions for online J-1 On-Campus Employment application (PDF) >>

NOTE: Those in in the following J-1 categories (see section 4 of the DS-2019): Research Scholars, Short Term Scholars, Professors, and Specialists DO NOT require an employer's letter. For information on how to apply for a Social Security number, please see the Scholars section below.

Location and directions to Social Security offices >>

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To request the I-Center letter, submit the following item at the upstairs front desk of the I-Center:

  1. A letter from your employer (a sample letter is available here)

*J-1 students pursuing on-campus employment must complete the online on-campus application form in Axess beforehand.

The letter will be issued within 5-10 days. You will be contacted by email once the letter is ready. After obtaining the letter, you may go to the SSA Office and submit your request for an SSN.

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SCHOLARS – including Visiting Student Researchers and Postdocs:

How do I apply for a Social Security number (SSN)?

You must apply in person at one of two Social Security Offices in the Stanford area:

  • You should not apply earlier than 16 days after your SEVIS record has been validated. Your SEVIS record can only be validated after your arrival and after you have submitted your Arrival Confirmation.
  • You should take your DS-2019, your I-94 card/electronic record (the white Arrival/Departure record stapled in your passport) and your passport when you apply. Most DS-2019s for scholars, Visiting Researchers and post-docs are issued for either the Research Scholar category or the Short-Term scholar category– these non-student categories do not require a letter.
  • Persons on J-1 visas will be issued a Social Security card stamped "not valid for employment." This notation will not affect your eligibility for payment through the University.
  • J-2 visa holders must have received work permission from USCIS in order to apply for a Social Security number. J-2 visa holders DO pay Social Security Taxes.
  • The Social Security Office will not issue a Social Security card to anyone lacking valid visa documentation.

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WHERE CAN I OBTAIN A SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER?

Social Security Numbers are issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

You must apply in person at one of two Social Security Offices in the Stanford area:

MOUNTAIN VIEW:
700 East El Camino, Suite 350. Mountain View, CA 94040.
Phone: (650) 961-5324

Directions:

Car: Take El Camino Real and continue until HWY 85. The office is located right after, between HWY 85 and Sylvan Avenue, 4 blocks from the Sunnyvale/Mountain View border.

Public Transportation: Take Bus line 22 Southbound on El Camino Real until Sylvan Avenue Bus Stop. Walk half a block backward to the SSA office.


REDWOOD CITY:
601 Allerton Street, Second floor, Redwood City, CA 94063
Phone: (650) 363-0665

Directions:

Car: From 101 take Whipple exit, go south on Veterans to Brewster; turn right, go two blocks to Allerton and turn left.

For more information and office hours, visit http://www.ssa.gov.

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Frequently Asked Questions

DOES THE DMV REQUIRE ME TO HAVE A SSN IN ORDER TO OBTAIN A DRIVER'S LICENSE?

If you are eligible for an SSN (i.e., if you have an on-campus job offer, CPT endorsement or EAD) you have to provide the SSN to the DMV in order to obtain a Driver's License.

If however, you are not eligible for an SSN you do NOT have to provide an SSN. (You may find that the a DMV official may demand that you obtain an SSN or a letter from the SSA Office regarding that you do not qualify for an SSN, but you should politely insist that you do not need an SSN or need to obtain a letter from the SSA Office.)  The DMV officer should have access to the immigration data base, and can verity that no employment authorization has been granted and you do not qualify for an SSN. If you continue to have problems because of the SSN, then ask to speak to the DMV Office Supervisor and mention that internal memo

(DMV DL 2003-37) regarding the new SSN on-line verification system also states that the DMV “should not refer customers to the SSN to determine SSN eligibility.”  (This memo was sent on Dec. 3, 2003 and was effective Jan.1, 2004.)


I AM A NEW STUDENT SCHEDULED TO WORK ON CAMPUS. WHAT IF I DO NOT HAVE A SSN YET: MAY I BEGIN TO WORK ON-CAMPUS?

If you are an F-1/J-1 visa-holder receiving a research or teaching assistantship you may begin to work without a SSN. However, since you qualify for a SSN, you will be expected to show your application receipt to your department administrator. You should be prepared to show your Social Security card by the second pay period.

If you are not receiving a research or teaching assistantship, but have been offered other employment on campus, Stanford Payroll policy requires that you have a Social Security Number before beginning your employment.


I HAVE AN SSN, BUT HAVE LOST MY CARD.  HOW DO I GET A REPLACEMENT?

If you lose your Social Security Card and wish to obtain a replacement you have to follow the process as if you were a first time applicant, i.e. you may need to show evidence of employment even if you originally obtained your SSN without having employment. Please see above for the applicable application instructions.

Your replacement card will have the same name and number as your previous card.  The replacement card will be issued in about 10 days.

More information can be found here.

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