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
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 may be eligible to 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?
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.
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 apply for your SSN at a time when your request can be processed.
Wait at least 10 days after you have the following to go to the SSA office:
- An approved ISSS Check-In
- A full-time course registration
- An updated U.S. mailing address in MyU
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 not be approved if you apply before this information has been fully processed, and you may have to reapply.
SEVIS Transfer Students
(Students who have transferred their SEVIS record to the UMN from another U.S. institution): You will need to present your Transfer Completed I-20 at the SSA. Do not go to the SSA until you have received this document from ISSS.
Where do I go to apply?
What do I need to bring with me to apply?
Important Information About Name Consistency
Your name must be consistent on all of your SSN application documents. The SSA will reject your application if there is any inconsistency. Important inconsistencies to check for include:
- Name order on immigration documents. Contact an ISSS advisor if there is any inconsistency in the name order on your I-20/DS-2019, visa, or passport.
- Preferred names. Do not use a preferred name on your SS-5 application form, or on any of the other “Additional Materials” listed below. Enter your legal (passport) name on all documents.
You must prepare the following to complete an application:
- Online Social Security Number Application (OSSNAP)*
- Passport and visa (Citizens of Canada in F-1 or J-1 status do not need a visa)
- Most recent I-94 (access online and print a physical copy)
- I-20**, DS-2019 or I-797 Approval Notice
*Important tips for completing the OSSNAP:
- Enter an address where you will stay for at least 3 months. Your SSN card will be sent to that address.
- Use an address where your name appears on the mailbox. USPS may not deliver a SSN Card to an address that does not have the applicant’s name listed on the mailbox.
- Record the OSSNAP application reference number that you receive upon submission. Have this number available when you go to the SSA office with your documents.
**If your current I-20 was sent to you via email from ISSS, you must print the I-20 and sign and date on page 1 for it to be valid.
Additional Materials (depending on your status)
- F-1 Students with a Graduate Assistantship or On-Campus Hourly Job: In addition to the above, you must include a fully signed “Verification of On-Campus Employment” letter with your SSN application.
- Step 1: Your hiring department must print the letter on their department letterhead (a template can be downloaded from our F-1 Forms page).
- Step 2: Section 1 must be completed and signed in ink (no electronic signatures) by your hiring department.
- Step 3: Bring the letter to ISSS anytime during office hours to request a DSO signature in Section 2.
- Please be aware that the SSA will not accept your letter if it is not printed on department letterhead, if it is incomplete and/or missing any signatures in Section 1 or Section 2, or if it has an electronic signature.
- 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: No additional application documents are required, but it is important to ensure that the I-20 provided with your standard application documents is properly endorsed with DSO authorization for CPT on page 2. No employer letter is necessary, but a copy of an offer letter may be helpful.
- J-1 Students who have a DS-2019 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 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.