Social Security Numbers

Social Security Numbers

A Social Security number (SSN) is used to report your wages to the U.S. government and to determine eligibility for Social Security benefits. Social Security numbers can be assigned to foreign workers who are authorized to work in the United States. Your SSN is not a work permit.

Background Checks

If your on-campus employment requires a background check to be completed, you will need to obtain a SSN before completing the background check.

If you are enrolled in a degree program which requires practicum classes which require a background check, please email CIE for additional information regarding an SSN for a background check. 

Eligibility for a Social Security Number

F-1 students are eligible to apply for a SSN if you have evidence of authorization for the following situations: 

  • On Campus Employment
  • CPT with CPT authorization on page 2 of your I-20
  • OPT with an EAD
    • You can apply for an SSN at the same time as you apply for OPT EAD
  • Economic Hardship- EAD from USCIS

On Campus Employment Procedure

  1. Obtain an offer letter. The letter must be on letterhead, include your full name, your start date, your job title and be signed. 
  2. Complete the CIE Letter Request Form
  3. Submit the completed CIE Letter Request Form and a copy of your offer letter to CIE. Please email these documents to or you can stop by SF 102. 
  4. CIE will process your support letter and email you when it is ready 

When to Apply

You must be physically present in the U.S. to apply for an SSN. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will verify your legal presence in the Systematic Aliens Verification for Entitlements Program (SAVE) before issuing your SSN.

Newly Arrived Students

  • Must wait at least 10 calendar days after arrival in the U.S.
  • Must wait at least 2 business days after the initial registration of your SEVIS record by an International Student Advisor. 
  • No more than 30 days before your employment start date

Continuing Students

  • No more than 30 days before
    • On-Campus employment start date as written on your offer letter
    • Your CPT start date indicated on page 2 of your I-20

Students on Post-Completion OPT

  • You must have your EAD in hand
  • No more than 30 days before the start date of your EAD

Applying for a Social Security Number & Card with the Social Security Administration

The closest Social Security Administration is located at 24301 Southland Dr, Hayward, CA 94545. Please visit the Social Security website for office hours, directions and other locations. 


We recommending calling the Social Security office you plan to visit to inquire about their current procedures. Some offices are requiring you schedule an appointment by phone before being able to apply for a Social Security number. 

Application Process

When visiting the Social Security Administration to apply for a SSN, you will need to take the following:

  1. Complete and print Application for a Social Security Card form (SS-5)
  2. Your Passport
  3. Your most recent I-20
  4. Your most recent I-94
  5. Your job offer letter (must be signed and on letterhead)
  6. Letter from CIE office (for on campus and CPT only- please complete the Letter Request Form)

You will receive a Social Security card in the mail approximately 1-2 weeks after applying for it. If you have any questions while waiting to receive your Social Security number, contact the Social Security Administration directly at 1 800 772 1213.

**It is very important that you keep your social security card in a safe place. Do not carry it with you, do not give the number out when it is not needed**

A Social Security Number is Not Required for the following

  • Registration for classes
  • Banking
  • Driver's License
  • Certain IRS Forms if you have not been employed
    • You do not need a social security number to complete IRS Form 8843 which is required to be filed yearly by F-1 students.