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.

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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.

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When to Apply

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 

F-1 and J-1 Students

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. If you are a new student (you will not be able to see ISSS Requests or the SSN eform until you have completed the visa check-in and ISSS has registered you. From the date you submit all check-in items, please allow 10 business days for ISSS to process your check-in. If you require an SSN for an on-campus job please email us and let us know so that we can register you immediately after check-in is complete).

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

Items to Bring: 

When you go to your scheduled appointment you will be expected to bring originals of all documents

J-1 Scholars

J-1 scholars do not require any additional letters from ISSS to apply for a Social
Security Number. Once a new J-1 scholar completes their orientation and check-in with
ISSS, they can apply for the SSN at the Social Security Administration office.

Items to Bring: 

  • Original SS-5 (must be fully completed and signed AND include your phone
  • Original foreign passport
  • I-94 (Most recent I-94, not the travel history)
  • UCSC appointment letter 
  • Form DS-2019

Required Documents

  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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