What is a Social Security Number?
A Social Security Number (SSN) is an identification number assigned by the U.S. government that is used for income tax purposes. It is also used to allocate retirement funds for U.S. citizens and in some cases used as a reference number to check an individual's credit history.
Do I need a Social Security Number?
You must have a SSN to work in the United States, but you only can apply for a SSN after you get a job. In some situations, people will ask for your SSN for identification (for example, in renting an apartment, opening a bank account, acquiring a driver's license, etc.); however, a SSN is NOT needed in these instances. Instead, an identification number such as your passport number or SLU identification number can be used.
How can my credit history be verified or established without a Social Security Number?
It is true that SSN are used to establish and verify credit histories, but since you have just entered the country, you will not have any credit history. Thus a SSN is not valuable to you as you try to rent an apartment or try to get electricity turned on, for example. It may be possible to give a deposit to the company or landlord instead of giving them a SSN.
How can I get a Social Security Number?
You must apply for a SSN at a Social Security Administration (SSA) office. Before going, you need an authorization letter from the Office of International Services. To get this letter, you will need a letter from your employer stating that you have a job. After getting the authorization letter from the Office of International Services, you will need to take the following to the SSA office:
Refer to the Forms page for a list of the steps, documents, and locations of the SSA. The process of getting your Social Security Card can take longer than a month. For more information, check out the U.S. government's site about Social Security Numbers for international students.
F-1 and J-1 students may only work on campus up to 20 hours per week. Off-campus employment requires special authorization. Click here for more information about employment for international students, and contact the Office of International Services before applying for any off-campus employment.