Q. What is a Social Security Number (SSN)?
A: The United States has 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 and is used to keep a record of income for tax purposes. This nine-digit number is referred to as a Social Security Number or SSN.
As an international student in F-1 or J-1 status, you are not required to pay into the Social Security system until you have lived in the United States for any period of time during five calendar years (For the specific calculation, please contact Mary Chenault in the Controller's Office). However, you are required to have a Social Security Number if you are employed. You may encounter various requests for an SSN for identification purposes while conducting business in the United States. The SSN is often used by banks as an access code; for example, if you phoned your bank and asked for your current balance, you may be asked for the last four digits of your SSN to verify your identity. Other agencies may ask for the SSN as a way to distinguish you from other people or to check your credit history. Despite these requests, you are not eligible for an SSN unless you are earning income in the United States.
Q: Do I need a Social Security Number?
A: Social Security Numbers are meant for tax purposes only. 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 a Social Security Number. You may only receive an SSN if you will be employed in the United States.
Q: If I get a Social Security Number, does it mean I can accept any job?
A: No! SSNs issued to non-immigrants (individuals who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents) are valid only in conjunction with a corresponding work authorization appropriate for their visa status. The SSN is not work authorization in itself.
Q: Do I need a number before I may be employed in the United States?
A: Any person who will be employed in the United States must have an SSN. You will not receive the SSN immediately after submitting your application, but you may begin working once you have applied. If you are employed by Emory, Human Resources will assign you a “dummy” ID number in the Emory system for use until the SSN is received. Students should not use the “dummy” ID number assigned by Emory as an ID number anywhere else outside of Emory! No tax treaty benefits will apply until the student obtains the SSN and provides a copy of the SSN card to Mary Chenault in the Office of the Controller (1599 Clifton Road).
Q: I have been given a student ID number by Emory University. Do I still need an SSN? Do I have to change my ID number?
A: A student ID number is not an SSN. You do not need to change your ID number. However, when you obtain your SSN, you should notify Susan Newborn in the division of Data Services in Human Resources at 404-727-7563 AND Mary Chenault in the Controller's Office immediately.
Q: I need to apply for a Georgia Driver's License, and I was told that I need to have an SSN in order to apply for one. How can I obtain a Georgia Driver's License if I cannot get an SSN?
A: To apply for a Georgia Driver’s License, you must provide your SSN or official evidence that you are not eligible for an SSN. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will issue Form SSAL-676 (essentially a "denial" or "rejection" letter) if you are not eligible for an SSN if you wish to apply for a Georgia Driver’s License. You must bring your immigration documents to the SSA and receive SSAL-676 before submitting an application to the Department of Driver Services. For more information, please see the section entitled Driving in the United States.
Q: When may I apply for an SSN?
A: You should not attempt to apply for an SSN until you have been in the United States for at least 10 business days. Information from the U.S. Port of Entry database must be reported to the SSA so they can 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. Additional wait times may apply depending on which type of employment you will pursue (see below).
The SSN application process is free and no appointment is necessary. When you enter the SSA office, you may have to wait in line for several hours. It is recommended that you go early in the morning, take a number when you enter and be prepared to wait. When your number is called, you will step up to the appropriate desk and present your application. The clerk will examine your documents and may take copies of them along with your application form.
Q: How long does it take to get the SSN?
A: On average, it takes two weeks to receive the SSN. It will be mailed to the address on your application form. If you move from this address before you receive your card, it will not be forwarded to you. You will need to go back to the SSA in person to present your documentation again.
As indicated above, SSA must verify your immigration information. They use the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) database for this purpose. If your information is not yet in the SAVE database or if there is a discrepancy between your immigration documents and the SAVE database, the SSA must send an inquiry to the Department of Homeland Security. The SSA cannot process your application until the Department of Homeland Security has verified your immigration status and information. Consequently, the application process may be significantly delayed. In general, the clerk who processes the SSN application will notify you in writing that additional verification is required so that you are aware of the status of your application. If you encounter this situation, there is nothing ISSS or the SSA can do to expedite the process. However, if you still have not received your SSN five weeks after submitting the application AND have not been informed that additional verification is needed, you may contact the ISSS staff to find out if there are any steps that can be taken to inquire about your application.
Q: What documents do I need to bring with me to the SSA?
A: Social Security Number applications for are taken in person. All F-1 and J-1 student applicants should bring a completed Form SS-5 and original immigration documents (passport, Form I-20 or DS-2019 Form issued by Emory University, and valid I-94 card) to the SSA.
Q: Where do I apply for an SSN?
A: There are several locations in the Atlanta area. Three of the closest locations are listed below. Other locations are available on the Social Security Administration website.
Q: What else do I need to do after I receive my card?
A: The SSN card is a valuable document which should be kept safely with personal records. You should carry the original card with you only when using it for official business, such as getting onto payroll. You should not keep it in your wallet. When you receive your Social Security Card, you should memorize your number and keep the card in a safe place for your personal records. The number is issued for you to use your entire life. If the card is not sent, you will need to contact the SSA office to inquire.