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Social Security Numbers

A social security number (SSN) is a permanent nine-digit identification number issued by the U.S. 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.

You must protect your social security number as criminals can use this highly personal information for unlawful purposes, potentially causing damage to your personal affairs. 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 share your SSN with others unless it is absolutely required.

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 an employment authorization letter from their J-1 sponsor (see below).

J-1 scholars are automatically eligible for a SSN.

J-2 dependents may apply for a SSN only if they secure work permission in the form of an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) through USCIS.

H-1B employees are automatically eligible to apply for a SSN.

H-4 dependents may work in special circumstances. More information is available in the H-1B portion of this 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 purposes.

How do I apply for a U.S. social security number?

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 nonimmigrant status. The name you put on your social security application needs to match the name you have on your I-20, DS-2019, and I-797 forms, your passport, your I-94 card, and your Mayo Clinic records.

When should I apply for a social security number?

Your application cannot be processed if:

  • Your on-campus or CPT work begins more than 30 days from your application date


  • The employment start date on your work permit from the DHS (Form I-766 known as EAD card) is a future date

You must wait at least 10 days after your check-in information is entered in SEVIS after arrival into the U.S. to apply for your social security number, as the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) must be able to verify your Port of Entry record and Mayo Clinic registration in SEVIS, which can take 10 days.

SEVIS transfer students (students who are having their SEVIS record transferred from another institution in the U.S.) need to present their Transfer Completed I-20 at the SSA.

What do I need to bring with me to apply for a social security number?

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 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.

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 sponsored by Mayo Clinic: In addition to the documents listed above, you will need to bring your appointment letter.

J-1 students not sponsored by Mayo Clinic: J-1 students with a sponsor other than Mayo Clinic in item two of their DS-2019 must get an employment authorization letter from their official sponsor. J-1 students must submit this letter in addition to the standard documents listed above.

J-2 dependents: All J-2 dependents need to submit the standard documents listed above, and should show their EAD when they apply.