Social Security Numbers

What is a Social Security Number?

In the U.S., a Social Security number (SSN) is a 9-digit number issued to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and temporary (working) residents. The number is issued to an individual by the U.S. Social Security Administration, and it is used for taxation and other purposes. Once issued, you have this number for life. 

  • A Social Security Number is NOT the same thing as your SDSU Red ID number.
  • If you want to work in the U.S., you must obtain a SSN.  However, simply getting a SSN does not authorize you to work in the U.S.
  • If you are issued an SSN, the number will not change even if you change employers, states, etc.
  • Keep your Social Security card in a safe place, and keep several copies of it in a safe place to protect your privacy.

Eligibility for SSN

International students: To get a SSN, you must be employed and either working on campus or have work authorization if you are working off campus.

What you do NOT need a SSN for

  • California Driver’s license and ID card
  • SSNs are often used for checking credit, but some companies do not require them.
  • Opening a bank account
  • Purchasing a cell phone plan
  • Renting an apartment

A note to newly arrived students

The ISC recommends that you wait until you have been in the U.S. at least 10 days before you start the SSN process below.  It takes several days for the Department of Homeland Security to transfer your arrival information. Without this information, the Social Security office could delay your application for up to 60 days.

Will you be working on campus?  Follow these procedures to get a Social Security Number (SSN).

  1. Ask the SDSU Human Resources or the HR department for your SDSU campus job for a Letter of Evidence of On-Campus Employment. If you are an F-1 student, upload the letter to the ISC's Social Security Verification Request Form. If you are a J-1 student, upload the letter to the ISC's J-1 On Campus Employment Authorization Request Form. An ISC advisor will process your request within 7 business days. When processed, you will receive an email notifying you to pick up the verification letter at the ISC which you will need to apply for the SSN.
  2. After you receive the letter from the ISC, schedule an appointment at your local Social Security office. Bring to your appointment the following documents:
  • Letter of Evidence of On-Campus Employment from SDSU Human Resources or the HR department for your SDSU campus job
  • Social Security Verification Letter from the ISC
  • Your valid passport
  • I-20 (F-1 students) or DS-2019 (J-1 students)
  • Printed copy of your most recent I-94

A note to newly arrived students

Students newly arrived in the U.S. must complete one academic year before being eligible to work or do an internship off-campus through Curricular Practical Training (CPT)Academic Training (AT), or Pre-Completion Optional Practical Training (OPT). Students may submit the application for CPT, AT, or OPT during their second semester at SDSU to begin working after the second semester ends.

After you receive the CPT, AT, or OPT authorization, schedule an appointment at your local SS office. Bring the following documents to your appointment:

  • Job offer letter from your employer
  • Your valid passport
  • I-20 (F-1 students) or DS-2019 (J-1 students)
  • Printed copy of your most recent I-94
  • Proof of your employment authorization to work off-campus:
    • CPT: Bring your I-20 with CPT authorization on it. You cannot apply for a Social Security card more than 30 days before your CPT authorization begins.
    • AT: Bring your DS-2019 with AT authorization on it and the verification letter from the ISC. You cannot apply for a Social Security card more than 30 days before your AT authorization begins.
    • OPT or economic hardship employment: Bring your EAD card.

Paying employment tax: international students who earn money while in the U.S. are subject to paying federal and state income taxes. 

When you are hired by a company, you will complete a withholding allowance form (W-4 form or SPAR form) to determine the amount of tax that will be withheld from from each paycheck.

The deadline to file tax forms is April 15 if you have earned money in the U.S. (including scholarships and assistantships).

Tax Information Session

Every year during tax season (January or February), the ISC partners with the College of Business Administration and their VITA  (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) Program to provide tax services to international students.

More Information

For more information about taxes and the Tax Information Session, please visit the U.S. Taxes and International Students webpage.

Social Security tax

International students in F-1 and J-1 status are exempt from Social Security tax (FICA). However, they are generally subject to federal and state income taxes.

Document processing time

Please allow 7 business days to process your document request at the ISC. If you have not heard from us or received the signed form after 7 business days, please feel free to contact the ISC.