An SSN is required for everyone who works in the U.S. It is a unique, nine-digit identification number valid for life, and is issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA) to maintain an accurate record of wages. Its primary purpose is to track individuals for tax purposes; it is not a work permit in and of itself. All students and scholars lawfully employed in the U.S. are required to apply for an SSN. There is no provision in the law that requires you to have an SSN before you start work. However, the IRS does require employers to report wages using an SSN for you to get paid.

Alternatively, some students or dependents not yet eligible for SSNs can apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN). This is a unique identification number valid for 5 years or until you receive an SSN, whichever is first. Currently ITINs take approximately 6-8 weeks to process. Detailed information on ITIN can be found on the IRS website.

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  • Must be in the US to apply
  • F-1 students who have an official employment offer AND work permission from ISSS and/or U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services
  • J-1 students who have an official employment offer and written work permission from their DS-2019 program sponsor
  • J-1 scholars with an appointment letter
  • J-2 dependents with work permission from USCIS

Note: F-2 dependents are not eligible for an SSN.


  • Must be in the US to apply
  • F-1 or J-1 students who are receiving a fellowship, scholarship, or award, but do not yet have bona fide employment.
  • F-2 or J-2 dependents being claimed on a tax return.

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When to Apply


You will need to be in Santa Cruz, complete the required visa check-in and have all the necessary documentation in order to apply. Because of the time required to process ITINs, we urge you to have additional funding available to you to cover your first quarter while you await your ITIN and payments.


You must be physically present in the U.S. to apply for an SSN. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will verify your legal presence in Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program (SAVE) before issuing an SSN.

Newly Arrived Students

    • Must wait at least 10 calendar days after arriving in the U.S.
    • Must wait at least 2 business days after initial registration of your SEVIS record. A student advisor will register your record after you have completed the visa check-in process, enrolled full-time, and updated your U.S. address in MyUCSC.
    • No more than 30 days before your employment start date.

Newly Arrived Scholars

    • Must wait at least 10 calendar days after arriving in the U.S.
    • Must wait at least 2 business days after initial validation of your SEVIS record. A scholar advisor will validate your record after you have completed Scholar Orientation and submitted the necessary documents.

Continuing Students

    • No more than 30 days before:
      • On-campus employment start date as written on job offer or J-1 On-Campus Authorization form
      • F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT) start date on I-20
      • J-1 Academic Training start date on DS-2019

Students on Post-Completion Training

    • OPT: no earlier than the start date indicated on EAD
    • AT: no earlier than 30 days before AT start date on the DS-2019

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How to Apply


Refer to the ITIN Presentation for step-by-step guidance.

Anticipated wait time for an ITIN is 6-8weeks 

SSN (for F-1 and J-1 students only)

Send the ISSS Social Security Authorization Letter Request Form to your supervisor to get it signed. Once you have your completed form, log onto your iGlobal account and go to ISSS Requests on the left hand side.

Complete the Social Security Letter Request eform to receive an ISSS Support letter, please email to notify us of your submission.

Once ISSS receives the completed eform, we will issue you an ISSS SSN support letter within 7-10 business days.

Due to COVID-19 and public safety concerns, the Social Security Administration (SSA) adjusted the process for you to obtain a Social Security Number.  In order to receive an in person appointment you must first fax all required information to the Santa Cruz SSA.  These documents will be reviewed and then you will be contacted for an in person appointment.  Once you are contacted you will be expected to bring originals of all documents which were faxed to the SSA.  Most FedEx, UPS or other print services typically have fax machines.

Fax items to the Social Security Administration at 833-950-2436  and allow 3-4 weeks for SSA to contact you to set up an in-person appointment.

ATT: Diana Esparza Macias

On the cover letter please also include your phone number so you can be reached to schedule an appointment.

Items to include: 

Required Documents


Refer to the ITIN Presentation for step-by-step guidance.


  F-1 Students J-1 Students F-1 OPT Students J-1 AT Students J-1 Scholars J-2 Dependents
I-94 record or passport admission stamp
I-20 (if on CPT/OPT, then the CPT/OPT I-20 itself)
DS-2019 (if on AT, then AT DS-2019 itself)
ISSS SSN Support Letter, or J-1 On-Campus Authorization Form
Employment Authorization Document (EAD)



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