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Social Security Numbers

What is Social Security?

Social Security is the American equivalent of a federal retirement pension. Over someone’s employment career a portion of each person’s paycheck is collected and the savings over time is paid to the individual upon retirement.

Why would I need a Social Security card and number?

There are two purposes a SSN serves. If you receive compensation while in the U.S. for such things as employment, scholarship, stipend, loans, etc., you may need an SSN for federal income tax filing and related tax compliance. Employers who compensate individuals also must use the employee’s SSN for their own federal tax compliance and confirmation that the individual has the appropriate authorization to accept payment in the U.S.

A person’s Social Security number is also a vital piece of general identification in the U.S. and most types of accounts (banks, credit cards, phones, utilities, driver’s licenses, tax withholding, etc.) will use a person’s SSN as a method of identification and confirmation of their account. Without an SSN you might find that setting up various accounts is difficult and complicated since all American citizens and U.S. permanent residents have SSNs.

What different types of visas status are eligible for a Social Security card and number?

Any individual allowed to work in the U.S. according to their immigration status is eligible to apply for an SSN. J-1, H-1B, TN and O-1 status individuals are all automatically eligible to apply for SSNs. Individuals in J-2 status (dependents of J-1) who have applied for and received an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) work card may also apply for a Social Security number.

Can F-1 students apply for a SSN?

F-1 students may only apply for an SSN if they have one of the following:

  • Evidence of a job on campus, and a letter confirming this from the supervisor and their OVIS international advisor
  • Curricular Practical Training (CPT) work authorization endorsement on page 3 of the I-20 form.
  • Valid Employment Authorization Card, with current start date, for Optional Practical Training (OPT), International Organization Training, or Economic Hardship Employment

What types of visa status are ineligible for SSNs?

Individuals in F-2, H-4, TD or O-3 status will not be issued Social Security numbers. F-1 students who are not working on or off campus are also not eligible for a U.S. Social Security number.

If I am not eligible for an SSN how can I file my U.S. taxes (if applicable)?

For tax form filing purposes, individuals who are ineligible for an SSN will need to apply for Individual Taxpayer ID Numbers (ITINs), issued by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). You may access the following website to download the ITIN application form and instructions (form W-7): http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/fw7.pdf (form W-7), http://www.irs.gov/pub/irs-pdf/iw7.pdf (form W-7 instructions).

How do I apply for a Social Security Card?

Any Social Security Administration office must verify a foreign national’s immigration status with the U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services (CIS) before issuing an SSN. We recommend that non-U.S. citizens wait ten (10) days following their initial entry into the U.S. before going to the Social Security Office to apply for the SSN. When you apply be sure to get a receipt from the office, verifying that you have applied. To apply you must submit originals and complete copies of the following documents, to a Social Security Administration office in person:

  • All I-20 forms issued (for F-1 students), all DS-2019 forms issued (for J-1 or J-2 visa holders), valid I-797 (for H-1B workers or O-1 visa holders), or passport and I-94 endorsement (for TN status holders)
  • Valid passport (copy of passport ID page and renewal page if appropriate)
  • Valid or Expired visa, if you have one – (Canadians are visa exempt)
  • Valid Form I-94:
    • If you entered the U.S. by land – will be a white card which is usually stapled to your passport
    • If you entered the U.S. by air or sea – will be processed electronically by Customs and Border Protection (CBP).  After you enter the U.S. you can access and print your electronic Form I-94 here.
  • Social Security card application form – available at the Social Security Office, or online: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/online/ss-5.pdf Information on the SSN application is available at: http://www.socialsecurity.gov/online/ss-5.html

If I have just arrived in the U.S. and don’t yet have an SSN can I still be paid by Dartmouth?

The Dartmouth Payroll Office will continue to pay someone for a regular pay period as scheduled, even if an SSN has not yet been issued.

Is there a minimum amount of time I may be employed in order to apply for an SSN?

Social Security guidelines require any F-1 or J-1 employment authorization be valid for at least 14-days in order to issue a SS number/card. Also note that F and J students may not work more than 20-hours per week (part-time) during enrolled terms.

Where do I apply for an SSN?

There is no local Social Security Administration office in Hanover. The nearest offices are located in Concord, NH and Littleton, NH. Both locations are approximately a one hour drive from Hanover and are unfortunately not served by public transportation. (See additional information on the OVIS website for exact locations and driving directions to these offices). Occasional visits to the Concord Social Security office are sometimes arranged around the beginning of other academic terms at Dartmouth (January, April, July). Please monitor the email messages from “Visa Services”.

Is there an application fee for an SSN?

No, the Social Security application is free.

How often will I need to apply for an SSN?

An SSN is valid for a person’s entire lifetime, so it is a one-time application. Your assigned number will never change over your life time.

Last Updated: 4/4/14