A Social Security Number (SSN) is a unique, 9-digit, identification number issued by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA). Although originally developed as a way to track and disburse social benefits such as pensions, the SSN has become a universal identification number used for many purposes including, but not limited to:
Regardless of immigration status, the following are general requirements for all international students, employees or visitors:
|F-1 Curricular Practical Training
|F-1 Optional Practical Training
|J-1 Student On-Campus||
|J-1 Student Academic Training||
|J-1 Exchange Visitor||
|J-2 with EAD||
* NOTE: J-1 students sponsored by IIE/Fulbright or another organization/institution must contact their sponsor directly for information on applying for a social security number.
For a handout with information on how to apply for a social security number, please click here. When filling out the Social Security Application, please make sure to write your name exactly as it appears on your immigration documents.
Once your application for an SSN has been approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA), the SSA will send a Social Security card to the address you provided on your application form. The usual processing time is two weeks. If additional security procedures are necessary, processing times may range from 4-8 week.
Most likely you will receive a Social Security card that has the notation- "Valid for work only with DHS Authorization." SSA issues this type of card to students and dependents in F-1, J-1 and J-2 immigration status because the card, alone, does not authorize employment.
It is not possible to be employed in the U.S., without first submitting an application for a SSN. If you will be working on-campus and will be paid by Northwestern University, please visit the Office of Human Resources website for more information.
Once you obtain an SSN, it will be the same number for your lifetime. Due to this, you should know where your original card is located and keep your Social Security card in a safe place. If you lose your card and are no longer working, it can be difficult or impossible to obtain a new card. The pplication evidence requirements to replace a lost card are the same as those listed above.
To guard against identity theft, you should only give out your SSN as needed. See the Social Security Online website for further details.
If you have any trouble obtaining the SSN, please ask to know the name of the person helping you and for a letter from the Social Security Office detailing the reason of the problem. Next, please contact the IO during walk-in hours.