How to Obtain a Social Security Number

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If you’re an international student interested in working in the United States, you’ll need to apply for a Social Security number. Learn more about what this means and how you can apply.

What is a Social Security number?

A nine-digit number assigned by the Social Security Administration to approved F and M students that are eligible to apply for employment in the United States.

Why do I need a Social Security number?

In order to work in the United States, every eligible F and M student needs a Social Security number (SSN). If you do not know if you are eligible to work, please speak with your designated school official (DSO) or responsible officer (RO).

Am I able to apply for an SSN?

F and M students who have authorization to work in the United States may apply for an SSN. In addition, any F or M student who wishes to apply for a driver’s license (in a state requiring an SSN before getting a license) may apply for an SSN.

Many states require that you or your dependent have an SSN or have already applied for one before you apply for a driver’s license. If you or your dependents are not eligible to work, but want to apply for a driver’s license, you must first apply for an SSN at the local Social Security office and receive a Form SSA-L676, “Refusal to Process SSN Application.”  To learn more, see our Driving in the States page.

For more specific information, see our Steps for Obtaining an SSN page.

Additional Resources

This article was originally posted by Study in the States, a blog sponsored by the Department of Homeland Security.

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