Social Security Number & ITIN
The Social Security Administration (SSA) is the U.S. federal agency that oversees financial protection through retirement, disability, and survivor’s benefits to U.S. citizens and Legal Permanent Residents. The SSA also issues Social Security Cards that contain a unique Social Security Number (SSN) to applicants. SSNs are used to report a person’s wages to the U.S. government and to determine a person’s eligibility for Social Security and other government services. For more information, see the SSA publication, Social Security Numbers for Noncitizens.
Eligibility for an SSN Heading link
SSA issues SSNs to non-U.S. citizens that are authorized to work in the U.S. Students and scholars in F-1 or J-1 Exchange Visitor statuses, employees in H-1B, TN and O-1 statuses and pending permanent U.S. residency applicants must have an authorized, paying job to be eligible for an SSN.
Per SSA guidance, SSA cannot issue a Social Security number solely for you to open a bank account or get an Illinois State Driver’s License.
If SSA rejects your application and indicates you are ineligible for an SSN, you will receive a letter stating that you are not eligible for an SSN, known as a Form L-676.
When to apply for an SSN Heading link
OIS strongly recommends that you wait at minimum one business day from the date you complete your Immigration Check-In with OIS to apply for your SSN. SSA must verify your immigration status in order to accept your application and it takes one business day for federal databases to communicate information about your arrival and status to SSA.
Applying too early for your SSN may result in significant delay of receiving your card.
Finding your closest SSA office Heading link
While you are allowed to visit any SSA office location, we encourage you to visit an office near campus if possible. Staff at these locations are more familiar with processing the applications of the UIC international community. When searching for an SSA office location, always search directly on the SSA website (don’t Google it!) or call their national toll-free number, 1-800-772-1213.
- SSA near UIC’s Chicago Campus
605 West Washington Boulevard, Chicago, IL 60661
- SSA near UIC’s Peoria Campus
815 West Pioneer Parkway, Peoria, IL 61615
Telephone: (877) 319-6039
- SSA near UIC’s Rockford Campus
502 East Jefferson Street, Rockford, IL 61107
Telephone: (877) 628-6570
How to apply for an SSN Heading link
In order to obtain an SSN you must submit an application to a Social Security Administration (SSA) office. The steps to apply and contents of your application will depend on your specific immigration status, as specified in the tabs below. Note that it can take two to six weeks from the date you apply to receive your Social Security Card in the mail. The card will contain your unique SSN.
After you apply for an SSN Heading link
Once you apply, SSA will process your application and, if approved, mail you a card containing your unique and permanent Social Security Number (SSN). It can take two to six weeks from the date of application for the card to arrive by mail. After you receive your card, please submit a copy directly to your employer.
Most likely you will receive a Social Security card with the notation, “VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION.” SSA issues this type of card to people lawfully admitted to the U.S. on a temporary basis who have authorization to work by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
How to take care of your SSN Heading link
Your SSN is sensitive, personal identification information. It is important to keep it safe and out of the hands of scammers that wish to use it to utilize your identity or credit history.
Tips to keep your SSN secure
- Do not carry your Social Security card in your wallet on a daily basis.
- Consider memorizing your SSN and only carry the card when you know it will be needed for a specific purpose.
- Do not type or write your SSN in the body of an email or text message.
- Do not send your SSN or image of your Social Security Card as an email attachment.
- OIS does not need a copy of your Social Security Card and will never ask you for your SSN.
Common scenarios in which your SSN may be requested
- When an employer is setting up payroll and tax paperwork at a new job.
- When setting up a new bank account, opening a credit card, or applying for a loan.
- When a business needs to check your credit in order to apply for an apartment, sign up for utilities, or get a contract-based mobile phone plan.
It is always a good idea to ask questions before deciding to share your or your dependent’s SSN in-person, on a form, or online, since SSNs are commonly used in identity theft scams.
How to respond to a request for your SSN
- Why do they need your SSN?
- How will your SSN be used?
- How will they protect your SSN and other personal information?
- What happens if you don’t share your SSN?
- Is there other identifying information you can provide in place of the SSN?
If you don’t feel comfortable with the answers to these questions, or you are being asked to share your SSN over public Wi-Fi to a non-encrypted website, it may be best to protect your SSN and not share it.
The above information is adapted from the Federal Trade Commission’s site, How to Keep your Personal Information Secure.
Replacing your card Heading link
In the unfortunate event that your Social Security Card is damaged, lost, or stolen, you will need to apply for a replacement. Non-U.S. citizens cannot apply for a replacement Social Security Card online. You will need to follow the application steps outlined above for your particular status. Please note that applying for a replacement Social Security Card is free. Websites claiming to expedite the processes or complete it online for you at a fee are scams.
Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) Heading link
An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), is a tax processing number only available for certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents who cannot get a Social Security Number (SSN). Additional information on the ITIN may be found on the IRS Website.
FAQs Heading link
Here are some frequently asked questions about SSNs and ITINS.
Do I need an SSN to open a bank account in the U.S.?
No, not necessarily. U.S. financial institutions are required to verify the identity of every individual who opens a bank account. The routine way to do this is by requesting the applicant’s SSN. However, most banks will accept alternative forms of identification from international clients that do not yet hold an SSN. Some examples include:
- taxpayer identification number (ITIN)
- passport number and country of issuance
- alien identification card number
- number and country of issuance of any other government-issued document evidencing nationality or residence and bearing a photograph or similar safeguard
It is important to remember that banks establish their own customer identification programs and may ask for additional documentation than is described above because they are ultimately responsible for establishing the identity of their customers.
Can I apply for an Illinois driver’s license without an SSN?
An SSN is not required to obtain a driver’s license in Illinois. International visitors may obtain a Temporary Visitor Driver’s License (TVDL) from various locations in the state. To apply, you will need to visit the Social Security Administration to request a letter stating that you are not eligible for an SSN, this is known as a Form L-676. If, however, you are eligible for a SSN, then you must apply for and receive the SSN before applying for a state driver’s license.