Social Security Numbers

“Social Security” is the U.S. government’s social insurance plan. It is intended to benefit retired people and certain people who are injured, disabled, or left without adequate means of financial support.

It is financed by means of withholding money from employees’ pay and from employers’ contributions.

A Social Security Number designates a person’s account with the Social Security Administration (SSA).

A Social Security Number is the most common requested form of identification for many purposes in the United States, such as writing checks, obtaining health insurance, applying for a credit card, etc.

How to Apply

People on F-l and J-l visas are generally exempt from Social Security withholdings. However, if you are employed in the U.S. in any capacity, you are required to have a Social Security Number. To get a Social Security number, complete an application form and take your passport, I-94, I-20 or DS-2019, a letter from the ISA verifying that you are currently in legal F-1 or J-1 status, and a letter from a U.S. employer stating the offer and terms of employment to the office of the Social Security Administration in Harrisonburg.

Laws have recently changed in this area making it more difficult to obtain a Social Security Card. For F-1 students, you will need to have an offer of employment or a job before you can apply for a Social Security Card. If you do not have a job, the Social Security Administration will deny your request.

Students with F-1 status who have obtained an Employment Authorization document (EAD) in order to support Academic or Optional Practical Training may substitute their EAD for an employment letter.

Completing an employment letter to assist in getting a Social Security number

As of October 15th, 2004 the process for international student to receive a social security number has changed. Regulations now require international students on F-1 visa status to be working or offered employment prior to receiving a social security number. An international student needs to provide the Social Security Administration (SSA) proof of employment. This can be done via an employment letter from the students direct supervisor.

  1. Request the form letter from the office of International Student Services. (EMU letterhead must be used, the students application for a SSN will be rejected by the SSA if it is not used.)
  2. Fill in the blanks on the letter. Type answers or use black/blue ink.
    A. Date
    B. RE: – Student Name
    C. Nature of students job (title, description)
    D. Start Date
    E. Number of hours/week (Maximum during school is 20 hours/week)
    F. Employer telephone number
    G. Students immediate supervisor
    H. Employer Signature or Students immediate supervisor
  3. Give letter to student to present at SSA. Students normally receive their SSN within 4 weeks of their application being filed.

Other Information

If you are dealing with a state or private organization, e.g. Department of Motor Vehicles, a bank, a cell phone company, etc, explain that you do not qualify for a SSN and ask about alternatives. Remember, however, that while some state and private organization require a SSN, many do not. If you find that a bank requires a SSN and you cannot obtain a SSN, take your business to another bank (one that does not require a SSN).

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is an identification number similar to a Social Security Number which may be issued to anyone in the United States who is ineligible to receive a Social Security Number (most commonly the spouse and children of students). To receive an ITIN, you or your dependent should complete an application (Form W -7) and mail it to the Internal Revenue Service Center . The ISA will have copies of the form and will supply you with the information at the beginning of the year.

It is important that you keep your Social Security card and remember your number.

Contact the ISA for more information:

Social Security Administration

227 East Elizabeth Street
Harrisonburg , VA 22802
(540) 433-3015

Office Hours:

Monday-Friday: 9 a.m.4 p.m.