What is Social Security and what is a Social Security Number (SSN)?
The United States government maintains a nationwide pension supplement system known as Social Security. A nine-digit number is assigned to all U.S. citizens, permanent residents and some international visitors. This number is used to record income for tax purposes and is referred to as a Social Security Number (SSN). International students in F-1 and J-1 status are not required to pay into the Social Security system until they have lived in the United States for any period of time during five calendar years (For more information on the calculation process, please contact Mary Chenault in the Controller’s Office).
You may encounter various requests for an SSN for identification purposes while conducting business in the United States, but your passport should serve as sufficient identification in most cases.
Do I need a Social Security Number?
Social Security Numbers exist for tax purposes. If you are receiving wages from an employer in the United States (such as receiving a stipend from Emory or working in an on-campus job), you will need an SSN. F-1 students may only receive an SSN if they have an offer of employment. In order to apply for an SSN, F-1 students must provide a passport, I-20, I-94 card, and letters from both their employer and ISSS. The ISSS letter can be requested via the F-1 Social Security Letter e-form in ISSS Link. Students may apply for an SSN up to 30 days prior to the on-campus employment start date.
J-1 students need only the DS-2019 Form, I-20 and I-94 card to apply. If you will receive a fellowship or assistantship you may be able to apply for the SSN on campus during a designated appointment period about one week after International Student Orientation. Otherwise, you will need to visit the Social Security Administration office in order to apply for an SSN. Refer to the Social Security Numbers section of our website for more information.
If I get a Social Security Number, does it mean I can accept any job?
NO! Social Security Numbers issued to non-immigrants (i.e. individuals who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents) are only valid in conjunction with a corresponding work authorization appropriate for their visa status.
When do I apply for the SSN?
Do NOT visit the Social Security Administration office until a minimum of 10 WORKING DAYS have passed since your initial entry into the United States. It takes at least 10 working days for your entry information to be reported by the U.S. Port of Entry to the central database that the Social Security Administration will need to access to confirm your legal status before issuing the number. If an application is submitted too early, procedures to find the information could actually delay the processing of your SSN.