Social Security Number

A Social Security Number (SSN) is a permanent nine-digit identification number/card issued by the United States Government. It is used primarily for taxing income in order to provide retirement and medical benefits. For tax purposes, anyone receiving income must provide a Social Security number to their U.S. employer.

Frequently Asked Questions

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Who is eligible for a Social Security Number?

  • F-1 Students must have a job offer to apply for an SSN.
  • F-2 Dependents may not work in the U.S., and they, therefore, do not qualify for an SSN. The Social Security Administration will not accept their applications.
  • J-1 Students must have a social security authorization letter from the issuing authority on item 2 of their DS-2019 (see below).
  • J-1 Scholars (Research Scholars, Short Term Scholars, Professors) are automatically eligible for an SSN.
  • J-2 Dependents may apply for SSN only if they secure work permission (and get an Employment Authorization Document) through USCIS. Instructions for obtaining J-2 work permission are found here. Contact a J advisor, if you have questions.
  • H-1B Employees are automatically eligible for an SSN.
  • H-4 Dependents may work in special circumstances. More information is available in the H-1B portion of our website.

All F-2 , J-2 and H-4 Dependents who do not qualify for a Social Security number can obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). The ITIN is an identification number that can be used for tax filing or some other specific legal purpose.

How do I apply?

*Until further notice, the SSA has changed its application process due to COVID-19. In addition to reviewing this information, review the COVID-19 Application Updates linked at the top of this page*

To obtain a Social Security number, you must apply in person at the local Social Security Administration office. Follow the procedures below depending upon your type of non-immigrant status. The name you put on your Social Security application needs to match the name you have on your I-20/ DS-2019/ I-797, your passport, your I-94 card, and your University of Minnesota records.

When should I apply?

Your application cannot be processed if:

  • Your on-campus or CPT work begins more than 30 days from your application date, or
  • The employment start date on your work permit from the DHS (Form I-766) is a future date.

If you are a new student starting at the University of Minnesota, it is important that you consider the following information to ensure you travel to the SSA office at a time when your request can be processed.

  • New Students: You should wait at least 10 days after you register for classes and update your address in MyU to go to the SSA office. The SSA must be able to verify your Port of Entry record and UMN course registration in SEVIS, and it can take 10 days for the information to be available in their system. Your application will be denied if you apply before this information has been fully processed, and you will be required to make a second trip to the Social Security Administration office.
  • SEVIS Transfer Students (Students who are having their SEVIS record transferred from another institution in the U.S.): You will need to present your Transfer Completed I-20 at the SSA, so you should not go to the SSA until you have this document.

Where do I go to apply?

Social Security Administration Office

1811 Chicago Avenue, Suite 2, Minneapolis

Office hours: 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday
Phone: 800-772-1213

What do I need to bring with me to apply?

Standard Documents

You must show the following documents to complete an application:

  • Valid Passport
  • Valid I-94 record or card
  • I-20, DS-2019 or I-797 Approval Notice

Additional Materials (depending on your status)

  • F-1 Students with Graduate Assistantships or On-Campus Hourly Jobs: In addition to the above, F-1 students need proof of a job or a job offer (from the hiring department) and verification of employment from a Designated School Official (DSO) in ISSS. You must have your Employing Department download and print the Verification for On-Campus Work form letter on department letterhead and fill out Section 1. You must then bring the form to ISSS so a DSO can complete Section 2. You can bring this letter to ISSS any time the office is open to the public. Please be aware that the SSA will not accept your letter if it is not printed on department letterhead, if it has an electronic signature, or if it does not have a DSOs signature in Section 2.
  • F-1 Students with an Employment Authorization Document: Under certain circumstances, F-1 students can obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that permits them to work off-campus. In most cases, F-1 students with an EAD are on Optional Practical Training. F-1 students who have an EAD need to submit the standard documents listed above, and they should show their EAD when they apply. No employer letter is necessary. No DSO letter is necessary.
  • F-1 Students on Curricular Practical Training: All F-1 students need to submit the standard documents listed above. The I-20 must be properly endorsed with DSO authorization for CPT on page 3. No employer letter is necessary, but a copy of an offer letter may be helpful.
  • J-1 Students who have document issued by the University of Minnesota: J-1 students with “University of Minnesota” listed in Item 2 of their DS-2019 must email ISSS and request a “J-1 Social Security Authorization letter” verifying your full-time enrollment and employment authorization at the UMN. J-1 students must submit this letter in addition to the standard documents listed above.
  • J-1 Students who have documents not issued by the University of Minnesota: J-1 students with a sponsor other than “University of Minnesota” in Item 2 of their DS-2019 must get a social security authorization letter from the issuing authority listed on item 2 of their DS-2019. J-1 students must submit this letter in addition to the standard documents listed above.
  • J-1 Scholars: J-1 scholars with “University of Minnesota” listed in Item 2 of their DS-2019, must submit the standard documents listed in Step 1 above. No additional letters are required.
  • J-2 Dependents: All J-2 Dependents need to need to submit the standard documents listed above, and should show their EAD (work authorization card)when they apply. J-2’s are not eligible for a SSN if they do not have an EAD.

What do I do next if I will work on campus?

All new employees at the University of Minnesota must complete an I-9 Form at Payroll services on or before their first day of employment. If you have not already, review the process to ensure you will complete all of the necessary steps.

Once you receive your Social Security card and number in the mail, you must bring your Social Security Number to your unit's Human Resources office. It must be entered in the UMN's Human Resources and I-9 system.

If you are eligible for tax treaty benefits, you must make another appointment with Payroll Services to complete your tax treaty paperwork once you receive your Social Security Number. You will not be able to take advantage of any tax benefits until you report your SSN and complete this second appointment.

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft and Scams

It is important that you protect your Social Security number as criminals can use this information to pretend to be you (a crime called "identity theft" that can cause significant long-term problems for victims). Do not carry your Social Security card or your Social Security number with you. Once you receive your card, memorize your number and store the card in a secure place.

Do not tell others your SSN unless it is absolutely required. You can learn more on our Safety webpage.

Last updated: September 8, 2021