Social Security Number

A Social Security card and number are essential to working in the United States. This number is required for anyone to receive payment from an employer. To apply for a Social Security number (SSN), you must be able to prove that you are legally authorized for employment and have a paid job.

If you are not eligible for an SSN, you may be eligible to apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

Students who are not eligible for an SSN may request "proof of ineligibility" by contacting the nearest Social Security office.

How to Apply

Students arriving to the United States with an initial I-20 or initial DS-2019 must wait 2-3 weeks after reporting to ISSS to apply to ensure the Social Security Administration can verify their immigration status. 

SSN applications may be denied if: 
a. an employment start date is more than 30 days from the application date, or
b. the employment start date on the EAD card is a future date.

Step 1

Obtain proof of both employment and work authorization. Proof types vary according to the type of employment listed below:

On-Campus Employment

  • On-campus employment letter from AU Human Resources
  • Signature from ISSS on Human Resources employment letter

Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

  • Authorization for Curricular Practical Training from ISSS (a new I-20 with CPT authorization)

Optional Practical Training (OPT)

  • EAD card issued by USCIS
  • Letter of employment from your employer

International Organization (IO)

  • EAD card issued by USCIS
  • Letter of employment from the international organization

Step 2

Collect the following documents and take them to the Social Security Administration office to apply for your card. In addition to looking at your documents, a clerk may interview you and ask a few routine questions. Social Security office hours may vary. Be prepared for a long wait.

Your Social Security card should be mailed to you within 2-3 weeks. In the meantime your employer's Human Resources office will probably want to see your receipt showing that you have applied for a card.

After showing your Social Security Card to your employer put it away in a safe place - the Social Security Administration advises that you should not carry your card with you.

J-1 students who have a DS-2019s that were not issued by American University need to consult with their program sponsors and follow their instructions. The steps below are for students whose DS-2019s were issued by American University.

Step 1

Obtain proof of both employment and work authorization. Proof types vary according to the type of employment listed below:

On-Campus Employment

  • On-campus employment letter from AU Human Resources
  • Signature from ISSS on Human Resources employment letter

Academic Training (AT)

  • Employment letter from your Academic Training employer
  • New DS-2019 from ISSS authorizing you for Academic Training 
  • Written Approval from ISSS authorizing you for Academic Training

Step 2

Collect the following documents and take them to the Social Security Administration office to apply for your card. In addition to looking at your documents, a clerk may interview you and ask a few routine questions. Social Security office hours may vary. Be prepared for a long wait.

Your Social Security card should be mailed to you within 2-3 weeks. In the meantime your employer's Human Resources office will probably want to see your receipt showing that you have applied for a card.

After showing your Social Security Card to your employer put it away in a safe place - the Social Security Administration advises that you should not carry your card with you.

Protect Yourself Against Identity Theft 

Social Security numbers are often used in cases of identity theft. Be cautious in sharing the number with anyone, and keep the card in a safe place with other important documents, rather than carrying it with you and risking losing it or having it stolen. 

Lost Social Security Card 

If you lose your Social Security card you will need to follow the same procedure to apply for a replacement card, which will have the same number. Note that you will again need to show current proof of employment and proof of work eligibility.