Social Security Number (SSN)

A Social Security number (SSN) is a taxpayer and benefit 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 U.S. The Social Security Administration does not consider SSN requests for drivers licenses, loans, rental agreements, etc. as necessary or required.  If you are paid in the U.S., you must have a SSN to file a U.S. income tax return. 

Special Note: If you will be employed in the U.S., you are required to complete the Form I-9 Employment Eligibility Verification within three business days of your employment start date.  You do not need an SSN in order to complete the Form I-9. 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 U.S. 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 before your employment start date

NOTE: 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 may apply without an employment offer, but no guarantee the SSN will be issued without an offer (though it may be worthwhile to try and apply). J-1 students with sponsorship from Fulbright may also be able to obtain an SSN without an employment offer. J-2 dependents with an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) may apply with the EAD card as proof of employment eligiblity.

How to Apply for a SSN

UPDATE 05/13/2022: The Social Security Administration (SSA) has announced the release of the Online Social Security Number Application, the first step in applying for a Social Security Number (SSN). 
Individuals (including students and scholars) may begin the process online to apply for a new or replacement Social Security card. After the application is submitted online, the student/scholar must visit their local Social Security Administration Office in-person with their supporting documentation within 45 calendar days.  All acceptable documents must be original or copies certified by the issuing agency, unexpired and must show name, date of birth or age.
After the SSA verifies all documents submitted in person to their office and complete their request, individuals will receive their SSN card in the mail within 14 business days.

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.

After submitting your SSN application online, you will need to appear in person to submit the required supporting documentation to your local office of the Social Security Administration. When you go, you must bring the following documents with you.

Local Social Security Administration Office:
10 Fawcett Street
First Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138
tel: 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 a copy of your SSN application receipt submitted online
  • your passport identity pages (with name, date of birth, passport number, issue/expiration date of passport)
  • F-1 entry visa stamp (in passport issued by U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad)
  • Form I-94 Arrival record (from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/)
  • all Forms 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
      • official’s/supervisor’s original signature and signatory’s title
      • Date
  • If you are employed by MIT, a letter from the International Students Office confirming visa status and employment eligibility (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.
  • appear at the local SSA Office within 45 days of submitting the online SSN application with the above documents.

For J-1 Students

Information about J-1 exchange visitors who will be working in the United States is at https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10107.pdf and at https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10096.pdf

Students must have printed copies of ALL of the documents below to present when applying for the SSN:

  • download, print a copy of your SSN application receipt submitted online
  • your passport identity pages (with name, date of birth, passport number, issue/expiration date of passport)
  • J-1 entry visa stamp (in passport issued by U.S. Embassy/Consulate abroad)
  • Form I-94 Arrival record (from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/)
  • all Forms DS-2019 (note: if you were issued an electronic version, you must download, print, and sign the Form DS-2019 to present the paper document to the SSA)
  • 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 – J-1 visa holders may be eligible to apply for the SSN without an employment offer. 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 J-1 student’ s immediate supervisor
      • official’s/supervisor’s 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)
  • appear at the local SSA Office within 45 days of submitting the online SSN application with the above documents.

You will receive your Social Security number on a card in the mail approximately 14 business days 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 Employment Authorization (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

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 with the Massachusetts Registry of Motor Vehicles.

To request an SSN “Denial Letter”, the following documentation is required to present in-person at the SSA Office:

  • Complete the SSN application form online; then download and print a copy of your SSN application receipt submitted online to take in-person to the SSA Office to submit within 45 days the supporting documents below.
  • 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 in your passport 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 (F-1 visa holder) or Form DS-2019 (J-1 visa holder) certificate of eligibility for student status