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What is an SSN?
A Social Security Number (SSN) is issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA), a federal agency, and is used primarily by employers and employees for tax-reporting purposes only. The employer needs to withhold taxes on your earnings using your unique number, and you need your social security number when you file a tax return.
A Social Security Number (SSN):
In general, international students and scholars need to have authorized employment to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN), with the following exceptions:
- J-1 students, researchers, and short-term scholars are eligible to apply for an SSN without employment.
- F-1 doctoral fellowship stipend recipients who do not work the first year but will later have teaching and research responsibilities. Fellowship students who are already in a teaching position should follow the instructions for on-campus employment.
When You Can Start Your Application
All students in J-1 status are eligible to apply for a Social Security Number without being employed, including students with a doctoral fellowship.
If you are a new student, you will not be able to submit this request until after you have reported your arrival with the ISSO. Please allow 2 to 5 business days for your record to be updated.
If you applied for a Social Security Number (SSN) through the I-765 application for J-2 work permission, you do not need to follow these instructions to apply in person.
Generally you will receive the SSN in the mail a few weeks after you receive the EAD.
If you do need to apply for an SSN in person, you may apply on or after the "valid from" date on your EAD card.
Gather Your Documents
Check the list below for the documents you need to gather to apply for an SSN. You will need to upload them for the online application and then bring the originals with you to follow up in person.
If you applied for a Social Security Number (SSN) through the I-765 OPT application, you do not need to follow these instructions to apply in person. Generally you will receive the SSN in the mail a few weeks after you receive the EAD.
J Students, Scholars, and Dependents
If you applied for a Social Security Number (SSN) through the I-765 application for J-2 work permission, you do not need to follow these instructions to apply in person. Generally you will receive the SSN in the mail a few weeks after you receive the EAD.
Other Columbia Employees
Go to the Social Security Card Center with your documents and the control number from your online application
Start the application process online on Social Security’s website and finish it in person. The Social Security Card Center recommends that you go on Wednesdays or Thursdays to avoid longer lines on other days.
A. Go to www.ssa.gov/ssnumber and follow the prompts.
B. After you click submit, print and save the control number that will be shown on the screen. Social security will not accept digital images on your phone, so be sure you have original documents with you and a printed version of your I-94.
C. Check in at the kiosk when you arrive at the Card Center and an SSA employee will verify the information that you completed online and review your documentation.
D. You will get a receipt when your complete application is accepted. This is important because Columbia requires it as part of the paperwork for getting on payroll.
Wait 1-2 Weeks to Receive Your Social Security Card in the Mail
After you receive your SSN, we advise you not to carry the Social Security Card with you, but to memorize the number or make a note of it elsewhere and put the card in a safe place with your other important documents. We all need to be careful to avoid identity theft. Don't lose your card! Replacement is tricky.
Replacing a Lost Social Security Card
The Social Security Administration will replace your card (and will give you the same number) only if you are currently eligible to get one. However, you may continue to use your Social Security number if you know it and your card is not requested.
Check the document requirements under the category for your current eligibility. The SSN application asks if you have ever filed for or received an SSN card previously.