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U.S. Department of Homeland Security: Study in the States

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Obtaining a Social Security Number

The Social Security Administration (SSA) assigns nine-digit Social Security numbers (SSNs) to U.S. citizens, permanent residents and eligible nonimmigrant workers in the United States. SSA uses SSNs to report wages to the government, track Social Security benefits and for other identification purposes. Every F and M student who U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) grants employment authorization to needs an SSN.

Please note: If an F or M student (or dependent) is ineligible to receive an SSN, but receives non-wage income while in the United States (e.g., scholarships, grants, interest on stocks, gambling/lottery winnings), they must apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). For more information, please visit our What is an ITIN? resource page.

Steps for Obtaining a Social Security Number

If you want to receive an SSN while studying in the United States, follow these steps:

1. Talk with your DSO about working and training in the United States.

Your DSO will share important information regarding the regulations and requirements for F and M students, and confirm whether you are eligible to apply for an SSN.

2. Verify you are in Active status in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). 

Your SEVIS record must be in Active status for at least two days before applying for an SSN. If you have a record in any other status, you will not be successful in applying for an SSN.

3. Wait 10 days after arriving in the United States before applying for an SSN to allow enough time for your arrival information to update in all government systems.

SSA uses the Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) program to verify your nonimmigrant student status and determine if you are eligible for an SSN. You can use the SAVE Case Check to follow the progress of your SAVE verification check online; visit our Checking Your SAVE Case Status for more information.

4. Visit your local SSA office.

You can file your application for an SSN card in person at any SSA office. Be prepared to provide your original documents to prove your age, identity and work-authorized immigration status. All evidence of immigration status and work authorization must be unexpired.

For more information on the types of documents you need to apply for an SSN, refer to the SSA website.

Social Security Numbers and Driver’s Licenses

Many states require that you or your dependent have an SSN or have already applied for one before you apply for a driver's license. In these states, if you or your dependents are not eligible to work but want to apply for a driver's license, you must first apply for an SSN at the local SSA office and receive a Form SSA-L676, "Refusal to Process SSN Application." To learn more, visit our Driving in the States page and talk with your DSO.

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