Social Security Number Application

Social Security Application Graphic
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COVID-19 Alert

 

The Manhattan Social Security Card Center and all SSA offices are closed until further notice.

  • It is not possible to apply online. 
  • If you need an SSN, first check with your employer to see if they will let you begin employment without an SSN.
  • If you have an urgent need for an SSN, you can phone the Social Security Card Center to see if an in-person appointment can be arranged. If you live in Manhattan, the number is 866-657-3406. If you live elsewhere, enter your zip code here to find your local Card Center and phone number. 
  • If you are able to secure an appointment, proceed with the instructions below.
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Overview

A Social Security Number (SSN) 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):

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Eligibility

In general, international students and scholars need to have authorized employment to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN), with the following exceptions:

  1.  J-1 students, research and short-term scholars are eligible to apply for an SSN without employment
  2.  F-1 doctoral fellowship recipients who do not work the first year but will later have teaching and research responsibilities
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When and How to Apply

Social Security Card Timeline
Step 1

Gather your documents

Check the list below for the documents you need to gather to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN). 

F-1 Students

When

You may apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) as early as 30 days in advance of your employment start date.

How

There are 6 items that comprise your SSN application that you take to the Social Security Card Center when you have secured an appointment.

Step A. Obtain the On-Campus Employer Letter completed by your supervisor

Share the On-Campus Employer Letter link with your supervisor who will complete and sign the fillable form. The form must be: 

  • printed on the hiring department's official letterhead
  • signed in blue ink with the supervisor's original signature
    • The supervisor signature must be less than 30 days old on the day you have an appointment to go to the Social Security Card Center to apply for an SSN


Step B.  Apply for the ISSO Social Security Letter

You will need a copy of your most recent I-94 arrival record and your UEMS order number. While we continue to work remotely, we will need to ship the letter to you. Follow these directions for UEMS shipping and save your order number that you will need for your application. 

Log in to Compass with your UNI and password to request your ISSO Social Security Letter. Click on the link for your campus.

After you submit the form, ISSO will email you when your ISSO Social Security letter has been processed and ready for shipping. Your ISSO letter must be dated within the 30 days before your appointment.

Step C. Take original documents 1-6 to the Social Security Card Center .

When

You may apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) as early as 30 days in advance of your I-20 program start date. 

How

There are 6 items to take to the Social Security Card Center when you apply for an SSN. Please follow these instructions:

Step A. Find a copy of your official fellowship award letter that referred to future teaching/research responsibilities OR obtain a letter from your department's Graduate Coordinator or your academic adviser that confirms the terms of the fellowship regarding future teaching or research responsibilities. Whichever letter you choose must have an original signature.

Step B. Apply for your ISSO Social Security Letter 

You will need a copy of your most recent I-94 arrival record and your UEMS order number in addition to the fellowship letter. While we continue to work remotely, we will need to ship the letter to you. Follow these directions for UEMS shipping and save your order number that you will need for your application. 

Log in to Compass with your UNI and password to request your ISSO Social Security Letter. Click on the link for your campus: 

After you submit the form, ISSO will email you when the ISSO Social Security Letter has been processed and is ready for shipping. 

Step C. When you have documents 1 - 6, go to the Social Security Card Center.

When

You may apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) as early as 30 days in advance of your CPT employment start date printed on page 2 of your I-20. 

How

Take the original 4 items that comprise your SSN application to the Social Security Card Center:

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. 

When

If you do need to apply for an SSN in person, you may apply on or after the OPT start date on your EAD card. 

How

Take the 5 original documents that comprise your SSN application to the Social Security Card Center:

J-1 Students, Scholars, and Dependents

All students in J-1 status are eligible to apply for a Social Security Number without being employed, including students with a doctoral fellowship.

When

You may apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) as early as 30 days in advance of your DS-2019 program start date.

How

There are 5 items that comprise your SSN application that you take to the Social Security Card Center. Please follow these instructions.

Step A.  Apply for an ISSO Social Security Letter 

You will need a copy of your most recent I-94 arrival record and your UEMS order number. While we continue to work remotely, we will need to ship the letter to you. Follow these directions for UEMS shipping and save your order number that you will need for your application. 

Log in to Compass with your UNI and password to request your ISSO Social Security Letter. 

Click on the link for your campus: 

After you submit the request, ISSO will email you when your ISSO Social Security Letter has been processed and is ready for shipping.

Step B. Take these original 5 documents that comprise your SSN application to the Social Security Card Center.

When

You may apply for an SSN as early as 30 days in advance of your Academic Training employment start date.

How

There are 5 items that comprise your SSN application that you take to the Social Security Card Center:

When

You may apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) as early as 30 days in advance of your DS-2019 program start date. 

How

There are 5 items that comprise your SSN application that you will take to the Social Security Card Center. Please follow these instructions.

Step A.  Email a request for an ISSO Social Security letter for a J-1 Student Intern to the ISSO Scholar Services of your campus. Attach a copy of your most recent I-94 arrival record and use "Social Security Letter" in the subject line. 

  • Morningside/Manhattanville
  • ISSO-CUIMC (medical campus)

ISSO will email you when your ISSO Social Security letter has been processed and is ready for shipping.

Step B. When you have documents 1 - 5, take your application to the Social Security Card Center.

When

You may apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) as early as 30 days in advance of your DS-2019 program start date. Wait two business days after you have reported your arrival online to ensure that your SEVIS record can be verified as "active".

How

There are 4 items that comprise your SSN application that you take to the Social Security Card Center. You do not require anything from the ISSO. 

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. 

When

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. 

How

There are 5 items that comprise your SSN application that you take to the Social Security Card Center:

Other Columbia Employees

When

You may apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) on or after the "valid from" date on your I-797 Approval Notice 

How

There are 4 items that comprise your SSN application that you take to the Social Security Card Center:

When

You may apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) on or after the start date on the TN or E-3 sponsor's letter offering employment

How

There are 4 items that comprise your SSN application that you take to the Social Security Card Center:

Step 2

Go to the Manhattan Social Security Card Center and bring your original documents

123 William Street
New York, NY
10038
(7:00 a.m. - 4:00 p.m., Monday to Friday) *Until the Card Center re-opens after being closed due to COVID-19, it is by appointment only, arranged with an SSA representative by phone at 866-657-3406.

*Many subway lines including the #2, #3, and A lines go to Fulton Street station. Follow the signs for the William St. exit.

 

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Step3

Wait 1-2 weeks to receive your SSN 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.

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Replacing a Lost Social Security Card

The SSA 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 has a question asking if you have ever filed for or received an SSN card before. 

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