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Social Security

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:

  • Employer Payroll
  • Internal Revenue Service (federal taxes)
  • Driver's Licenses (some states)
  • Credit History

Social Security Office Locations

Offices close to Northwestern's campuses are listed below, and additional offices can be found on the Social Security website

Social Security Office hours are Monday-Friday 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m.

Evanston

The closest Evanston Social Security Office is located at 2116 Green Bay Road.

According to the Evanston Social Security Office websiteAs of April 7, 2022, local social security offices will restore in-person services, including for people without an appointment.

To make and appointment at the Evanston Social Security Office call 1-800-772-1213

Chicago

The closest Chicago Social Security offices is located at 605 West Washington Boulevard, Chicago IL 60661
Hours: 9am - 4 PM

Applying for a Social Security Number

Read below for application instructions.

As of May 2022, the Social Security Administration (SSA) is also offering an ONLINE OPTION to initiate your SSN application.

Starting in Fall Quarter? Your SEVIS record must be activated before you can apply for an SSN. Your SEVIS record will be activated after the add/drop deadline in mid-October. This means you must wait until mid-October to apply for an SSN.

F-1/J-1 students working on campus

The Social Security Administration (SSA) will only issue Social Security numbers (SSN) to F-1 and J-1 students who meet the following three criteria:

  1. You have been in the U.S. for at least 10 days
  2. You are registered full-time for classes
  3. You have a secured job offer from an NU department

Complete the following application steps:

  1. Obtain a Job Offer Letter (see a sample) from the NU office/department that will employ you.
  2. Using this Job Offer Letter, F-1 and J-1 students on-campus must request a Social Security Letter from OISS.
  3. Complete the SSN application -  you can initiate the SSN application online (which will expedite processing of your application) or you can complete the paper Social Security Application to present in person with the rest of the documents listed below in #4.
    IMPORTANT NOTE - Be sure to make note of your "O Number" assigned during the online application process. You will need this when you go to the SSA Office.

    Online Social Security Number Application

  4. Visit the SSA Office after you have initiated the SSN application online (you can go the same day). Bring the following with you to the nearest Social Security Office:
1. Original Job Offer Letter (dated within 30-days of SSN application)
2. Social Security Letter from OISS (dated within 30-days of SSN application) - see #2 above
3. Passport
4. Original I-20 or DS-2019
5. Printed copy of your I-94 Record - Retrieve your I-94 record
6. Your "O Number" assigned during your the online SSN application so SSA can retrieve your online application.
         OR a printed copy of the completed Social Security Application

J-1 Scholars, J-1 Student Interns and H-1B Employees

J-1 Scholars and H-1B employees can apply for a Social Security Number 10 days after arriving in the U.S. Follow the steps below:

Step 1 - Apply

Complete the SSN application -  you can initiate the SSN application online (which will expedite processing of your application) or you can complete the paper Social Security Application to present in person with the rest of the documents listed below in #4.

IMPORTANT NOTE - Be sure to make note of your "O Number" assigned during the online application process. You will need this when you go to the SSA Office.

ONLINE SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER APPLICATION

Step 2 - Go to SSA Office with required documents

Bring the following to the SSA Office AFTER you have initiated the SSN application online ( you can go the same day - no appointment needed)

1. Original Job Offer Letter written by your department at Northwestern.
2. Passport
3. Printed copy of your I-94 Record - Retrieve your I-94 record
4. J-1 Scholars must bring original DS-2019
5. H-1B Scholars must bring original H-1B Approval Notice
6. Your "O Number" assigned during your the online SSN application so SSA can retrieve your online application.
         OR a printed copy of the completed Social Security Application

 

F-1 Students on CPT

F-1 students approved for CPT should apply for a SSN no earlier than 30 days before your scheduled employment start date. Follow these steps:

Step 1 - Apply

Complete the SSN application -  CPT students can initiate the SSN application online (which will expedite processing of your application). When completing the online SSN application, be sure to make note of your O Number assigned during the application process.

Online Social Security Number Application


Step 2 - Go to the nearest SSA Office with required documents

Bring the following to the SSA Office AFTER you have initiated the SSN application online ( you can go the same day - no appointment needed). 

1. "O number" assigned during the online application
2.  Form I-20 (updated and reflecting the F-1 CPT authorization on page 2)
3.  Passport
4.   Printed copy of your  I-94 arrival/departure record - retrieve your I-94  record
5.  Job offer letter from your employer

F-1 Students on OPT

F-1 students approved for OPT (Optional Practical Training) should apply for a Social Security Number on or after the start date on the EAD card. Follow these steps:

Step 1 - Apply

Complete the SSN application -  OPT students can initiate the SSN application online (which will expedite processing of your application). When completing the online SSN application, be sure to make note of your "O Number"

Online Social Security Number Application


Step 2 - Go to the nearest SSA Office with required documents

Bring the following to the SSA Office AFTER you have initiated the SSN application online ( you can go the same day - no appointment needed). 

1. "O number" assigned during the online application
2.  Form I-20 (updated and endorsed for OPT)
3.  Passport
4.   Printed copy of your  I-94 arrival/departure record - retrieve your I-94  record
5.  EAD card

 

J-1 Students Authorized for Academic Training

J-1 students authorized for Academic Training (AT) should follow these steps:

Step 1 - Apply

Complete the SSN application -  OPT students can initiate the SSN application online (which will expedite processing of your application). When completing the online SSN application, be sure to make note of your "O Number."

Online Social Security Number Application


Step 2 - Go to the nearest SSA Office with required documents

Bring the following to the SSA Office AFTER you have initiated the SSN application online ( you can go the same day - no appointment needed). 

1. "O number" assigned during the online application
2.  Form DS-2019 (updated with Academic Training notation)
3.  Passport
4.   Printed copy of your  I-94 arrival/departure record - retrieve your I-94  record
5.  Letter from the OISS (J-1 Student Social Security Letter Request Form) to apply for an SSN
6.  Job offer letter from employer

 

Need assistance?

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 your OISS International Student or Scholar Advisor.

Approval

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. The SSA no longer issues a number in advance of the card being mailed.

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.