Social Security Number (SSN)

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 business 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.
Students should request an SSN Letter from the ISO by logging in to iMIT, select the left-hand menu “(F-1 or J-1) Student Services” based on your visa status, and complete the eform for SSN Letter Request.
Once students receive their ISO support letter for the SSN, the ISO will also notify the SSA Office in Cambridge of the student’s name and phone number; SSA will then call the student within 1-2 weeks to schedule an appointment time for the student to submit the SSN application in person at the SSA Office. It is not possible to submit the SSN application at the SSA Office without a scheduled appointment.

NOTE: Students working on-campus at MIT can complete their Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification at the MIT Atlas Center before they receive their SSN, but will need to provide their SSN to the Atlas Center once the SSN is received.

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
First Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138

1-888-527-9340
http://www.socialsecurity.gov

Hours:
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:

  • download, print, and complete the SS-5 Application for a Social Security Card form provided by the Social Security Administration
  • 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)
  • Proof of a job offer from your employer; examples include:
    • copy of your MIT assistantship, fellowship, or related award letter from MIT
    • copy of offer letter for on-campus job by an MIT employer
    • a letter* from the employer on the employer’s letterhead that provides employment verification (from an off-campus employer under F-1 Curricular Practical Training, F-1 Optional Practical Training), 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
      • Date
  • 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).
    • To request the SSN Letter from the ISO, login to iMIT, select the left-hand menu “F-1 Student Services”, and complete the eform for SSN Letter Request.
  • The SSA Office will contact the student by phone to schedule an appointment to submit in-person their SSN application.

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

  • download, print, and complete the SS-5 Application for a Social Security Card form provided by the Social Security Administration
  • 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 SSN application by a J-1 visa holder, however we do recommend you request the SSN letter from the ISO to carry to your appointment.
    • To request the SSN Letter from the ISO, login to iMIT, select the left-hand menu “J-1 Student Services”, and complete the eform for SSN Letter Request.
  • Proof of a job offer from your employer; examples include:
    • a copy of your MIT assistantship, fellowship, or related award letter from MIT
    • copy of offer letter for on-campus job by an MIT employer
    • a letter* from the employer on the employer’s letterhead that provides employment verification (from an off-campus employer under J-1 Academic Training), 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
      • Date
  • If you are under the J-1 sponsorship of an agency/organization other than MIT (such as Fulbright, LASPAU, or others), you will need to have a support letter from the sponsoring agencies to confirm eligibility for U.S. employment and a U.S. Social Security Number (SSN)
  • The SSA Office will contact the student by phone to schedule an appointment to submit in-person their SSN application.

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.

J-2 Work Permit Holders

J-2 visa holders, who have received an approved J-2 work permit (EAD card) issued by USCIS may apply for the SSN. No job offer letter is required to apply for the SSN, but it is recommended to carry a copy of the job offer letter to present at the SSN application appointment.

Requesting SSN Denial Letter for Driver’s License Applications

For those students and dependents not eligible for a U.S. Social Security Number, but wish to apply for a Massachusetts Driver’s License, will be required to obtain an SSN “Denial Letter” from the Social Security Administration Office to include in the driver’s license application.

To request an SSN “Denial Letter”, the following documentation is required:

  • Completed SS-5 Application for a Social Security Card form with a note indicating “Request of Denial Letter” or a Completed SS-5 Application for a Social Security Card form with a cover letter noting the request for a Denial Letter.
  • Copy of passport identity pages (including name, photo, date of birth, passport number, passport issue and expiration date)
  • Copy of Entry Visa (issued by U.S. Embassy/Consulate) in the passport along with a copy of the most recent admission stamp from U.S. Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) at time of entry
  • Copy of Form I-94 Arrival record (from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/)
  • Copy of Form I-20 or Form DS-2019 certificate of eligibility for student status

The request for the SSN “Denial Letter”, with all documentation above, can be faxed to the Social Security Administration – Cambridge Office to 1-833-515-0461. The request could also be sent by express mail to the SSA-Cambridge Office.