A Social Security number (SSN) is a taxpayer identification number issued by the Social Security Administration. It does not represent permission to work, nor is it proof of US citizenship or permanent residence. Once you obtain a SSN, it is your number forever and may be used on subsequent visits to the US. The Social Security Administration does not consider SSN requests for drivers licenses, loans, rental agreements, etc. If you are paid in the US, you must have a SSN to file a US income tax return.
Special Note: If you will be employed in the US, you are required to complete the I-9 form within three days of your employment start date. You do not need an SSN in order to complete the I-9 form. If you are or will be employed at MIT, please see the I-9 Process at MIT for more information.
Eligibility for the Social Security Number
You may apply for a SSN only if you have:
- been in the US for at least 12 days
- have enrolled and registered for classes at MIT
- your registration has been sent from the ISO to SEVIS (first-year students)
- and no earlier than 30 days of your employment start date (if in F-1 student status)
F-1 students may only apply for the Social Security Number if they are employed or have a job offer that starts within 30 days. J-1 students and dependents may apply for the SSN without an employment offer.
How to Apply for a SSN
The Social Security Administration, due to the pandemic, does not currently allow individuals to walk-in to submit their SSN application.
Once students receive their ISO support letter for the SSN (requested via iMIT), the ISO will notify the SSA Office in Cambridge of the students name and phone number; SSA will then call the student to schedule an appointment time to submit the SSN application.
If you would like to obtain a SSN, you must apply in person at a local office of the Social Security Administration. When you go, you must bring the following documents with you.
Social Security Administration Office:
10 Fawcett Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday: from 9 am – 3 pm
Wednesday: from 9 am – 12 pm
For F-1 Students
Specific information for F-1 foreign students who will be working in the United States is at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10181.html
Students must have printed copies of ALL of the documents below to present when applying for the SSN:
- your passport, with F-1 visa
- I-94 record
- Form I-20 (note: if you were issued an electronic version, you must download, print, and sign the Form I-20 to present the paper document to the SSA)
- a letter* from the employer on the employer’s letterhead that provides employment verification, including:
- Download suggested letter format for the employer (PDF)
- Identity of student employee
- Nature of job the student is, or will be, engaged in
- Anticipated or actual employment start date
- Number of hours the student is expected to work
- Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Employer contact information, including the telephone number and the name of the F-1 student’ s immediate supervisor
- Original signature and signatory’s title
- If you are employed by MIT, a letter of student from the International Students Office (complete the SSN Letter Request eform in iMIT and wait to receive the letter from the ISO)
For J-1 Students
Information about J-1 exchange visitors who will be working in the United States is at http://www.socialsecurity.gov/pubs/10107.html
- your passport with J-1 visa
- I-94 record
- Form DS-2019
- A Letter of support from the International Students Office, regardless of your employment status (complete the SSN Letter Request eform in iMIT and wait to receive the letter from the ISO)
- NOTE – No employer letter is needed for the application, but if you have a letter we recommend you carry it with you.
You will receive your Social Security number on a card in the mail approximately three weeks after you apply. After you receive your Social Security number, please go to WebSIS Biographic Record and report your number for tax purposes.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
If you are on OPT, you will also need to bring your EAD card with you to apply for the SSN. Please refer to the Social Security Administration website for information on nearby locations.