What is a Social Security number?

A Social Security number (SSN) is a number assigned by the US government to track your income levels and determine your correct rate of tax withholding. It is required by all employers in order to pay you for any work you do. It does not provide legal authorization to work in the U.S.

How do I apply for a SSN as an F-1 student?

F-1 international students are only eligible to apply for an SSN if they have received a job offer for on-campus employment or have been given off-campus work permission through CPT (Curricular Practical Training) or OPT (Optional Practical Training).

If I applied for an SSN previously, do I have to apply again?

No. The SSN you receive is your number for life and will never change. Keep the number and card in a safe place and do not lose it! If you lose the number or card, the only way to find it is to re-apply from the beginning.

What if I am ineligible to apply for an SSN, but I am asked for the number?

Many vendors and businesses will ask for an SSN in order to trace your "credit history" to ensure that you have "good credit" and a history of making payments on time and without defaulting. As an international student, you do not have any credit history in the United States. Explain that you are not eligible for an SSN. Often vendors will let you pay an extra deposit (usually refunded upon making timely payments) instead of doing a credit check.

If you are able to get an SSN, does this mean I can work anywhere?

No, this card and number does not give you permission to work - it is used only for the employer to tax you at the correct rate. As an F-1 student, you are not allowed to work without permission from your International Student Advisor. If you do, it is a violation of your immigration status.

*Please be advised that individuals without a Social Security number (SSN) are not authorized to work in any capacity at MassArt until a SSN is provided to the Office of Human Resources. The Office of Human Resources is located in the Tower Building, Room 806 and can also be contacted by emailing hr@massart.edu. It is the student’s responsibility to give the SSN to the Human Resources Office as soon as it is received in order to avoid any delays in starting on-campus work or receiving payment.

I know I am required to file a tax return and I think I need a Social Security number for that?

It is true that the United States government requires every international student and scholar to file federal tax documents whether or not you earned money. If you have a Social Security number you can use this when you fill out the forms.  If you do not have one, you will be assigned an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number instead.

Where can I learn more about Social Security numbers?

For more information about Social Security Numbers, we suggest you consult the following information from the Social Security Administration: 

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