Office of International Education
Social Security Number (SSN)
Important: The Social Security Administration (SSA) will not issue a SSN for the purpose of opening a bank account, or obtaining a driver's license or a telephone.
What is an SSN?
U.S. federal law requires all individuals employed in the U.S. to have a Social Security Number (SSN). SSN’s are used to identify employees and tax salaries, and are only issued for the purpose of employment.
Why do I need one?
A SSN is not required to begin employment, but must be obtained immediately after being hired. In order to be eligible to apply for a SSN, your initial entry to the U.S. must have been more than 10 days prior to filing the application. Additionally, for non-EAD based F-1 student employment (CPT and on-campus employment) SSA will not process an application for a SSN if it is more than 30 days in advance of the scheduled employment start date. In the case of EAD-based F-1 employment (OPT), the employment start date on the EAD must already have been reached before SSA will process the application for a SSN.
Working on the ESF Campus | Working on the SU Campus
Working with Off-Campus Employers | Sponsored J-1 Students and SSN's
Social Security Administration procedures require employers to certify employment of international students. Please have your on-campus employer type the requested employment information directly into Section A of the appropriate Social Security Memo, print on department letterhead, and sign. Please note that there are Social Security Memos for F-1 and J-1 students with State and Research Foundation funding so be sure to select the correct one for the student employee. Once Section A is completed, the Social Security Memo should be returned to the student; the student must bring the Social Security Memo to the Office of International Education to complete Section B.
Please have your SU hiring department type the requested employment information directly into Section A of the appropriate Social Security Memo, print on department letterhead, and sign. After Section A is complete, take the form along with your I-20/DS-2019, passport, visa, and I-94 card to Syracuse University’s Human Resource Office in order to complete the I-9 Employment Eligibility Process. Once endorsed in Section B, bring the form to the SUNY-ESF Office of International Education to obtain the final endorsement in Section C.
To be eligible to apply for a SSN due to off-campus employment you must have valid work authorization (e.g., CPT authorization, EAD); you must be employed/ have a promise of employment; and have your off-campus employer complete section A of the appropriate Social Security Memo, print on company letterhead, and sign. Please note that there are Social Security Memos for F-1 and J-1 students with off-campus employment so be sure to select the correct one for the student employee. Once Section A is completed, the Social Security Memo should be returned to the student; the student must bring the Social Security Memo to the Office of International Education to complete Section B.
More Information: Employer Responsibilities When Hiring Foreign Workers
A J-1 sponsored student may apply for a SSN if they have obtained an offer of employment and authorization for the employment from their sponsoring agency. You will be asked to show a letter of authorization and/or an authorization comment on your DS-2019 when requesting the Employment Memo to include in the SSN application.
If a J-1 sponsored student will not be securing employment or seeking payment for services performed in the U.S, they may apply for an Individual Tax Payer Identification Number (ITIN) for tax administration purposes as they will not be eligible for a SSN. They must request a support letter from their sponsor and the Office of International Education. When requesting the letter from the Office of International Education, be sure to identify what exception you are filing under (e.g., 2(b) or 2(c) Scholarships, Fellowships, and Grants) and whether or not you will be claiming a tax treaty benefit.
More information about Social Security Numbers:
- SSA: International Students and Social Security Numbers
- SSA: Foreign Workers and Social Security Numbers