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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
    (866) 563-3899
  • 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.

  1. Secure an on-campus assistantship or student hourly job. See F-1 On-Campus Employment for more information.
  2. Request an F-1 Social Security Support Letter through myOIS.
  3. Gather SSN application documents.
    1. Passport
    2. I-94 record
    3. Form I-20
    4. F-1 Social Security Support Letter from OIS
    5. Address where your Social Security Card can be successfully delivered to you two to six weeks from your application date
  4. After obtaining your Social Security Support Letter from OIS, visit a Social Security Administration (SSA) office. We encourage you to visit the location nearest campus if possible, but you may utilize any location listed on the SSA website.
  1. Secure a paid internship integral to your program of study.
  2. Obtain CPT authorization from OIS. See F-1 Curricular Practical Training for more information.
  3. Gather SSN application documents.
    1. Passport
    2. I-94 record
    3. Form I-20 with current CPT authorization
    4. Employer’s internship offer letter
    5. Address where your Social Security Card can be successfully delivered to you two to six weeks from your application date
  4. After obtaining your Social Security Support Letter from OIS, visit a Social Security Administration (SSA) office. We encourage you to visit the location nearest campus if possible, but you may utilize any location listed on the SSA website.

Coming soon.

Coming soon.

Contact your Fulbright advisor for a list of the specific documentation you will need to apply for your Social Security Card.

  1. Request a J-1 Social Security Support Letter through myOIS.
  2. Gather SSN application documents.
    1. Passport
    2. I-94 record
    3. Form DS-2019
    4. J-1 Social Security Support Letter from OIS
    5. Address where your Social Security Card can be successfully delivered to you two to six weeks from your application date
  3. After obtaining your Social Security Support Letter from OIS, visit a Social Security Administration (SSA) office. We encourage you to visit the location nearest campus if possible, but you may utilize any location listed on the SSA website.
  1. Obtain an employment authorization document (EAD) from USCIS. See J-2 Dependents for more information.
  2. Gather SSN application documents.
    1. Passport
    2. I-94 record
    3. Form DS-2019
    4. USCIS issued EAD
    5. Employer’s job offer letter
    6. Address where your Social Security Card can be successfully delivered to you two to six weeks from your application date
  3. After obtaining your Social Security Support Letter from OIS, visit a Social Security Administration (SSA) office. We encourage you to visit the location nearest campus if possible, but you may utilize any location listed on the SSA website.
  1. Gather SSN application documents.
    1. Passport
    2. I-94 record
    3. Form I-797
    4. Address where your Social Security Card can be successfully delivered to you two to six weeks from your application date
  2. After obtaining your Social Security Support Letter from OIS, visit a Social Security Administration (SSA) office. We encourage you to visit the location nearest campus if possible, but you may utilize any location listed on the SSA website.
  1. Gather SSN application documents.
    1. Passport
    2. I-94 record
    3. USCIS issued EAD
    4. Address where your Social Security Card can be successfully delivered to you two to six weeks from your application date
  2. After obtaining your Social Security Support Letter from OIS, visit a Social Security Administration (SSA) office. We encourage you to visit the location nearest campus if possible, but you may utilize any location listed on the SSA website.

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.