Obtaining a Social Security Number
A Social Security Number (SSN) is a unique identification number that allows the United States government to monitor your taxable wages earned as an employee in the U.S. As an international student or scholar, you only qualify for a Social Security Card if you have authorization to work in the U.S.
The SSN does not give you U.S. employment authorization. It simply provides an identifying number for you to be paid for a U.S. job and for your employer to deduct the appropriate taxes on behalf of the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
A Social Security Number, which appears on the Social Security Card, is not required for you to open a U.S. bank account, buy a cell phone, or rent an apartment. The SSN is requested for these and many other financial transactions because it is commonly used to check U.S. financial credit history, but you will only be eligible for a SSN if you have authorization to work in the U.S.
In order to qualify for a SSN, you must be physically present in the U.S. in an immigration classification that permits employment.
Common immigration categories held by Boston University students and scholars include:
You are eligible to apply for a SSN if you have any of the following types of U.S. work authorizations:
- An on-campus job or have already begun working at an on-campus job
- Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization
- Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization, and received your Employment Authorization Document (EAD); and the validity period of your EAD has begun
J-1 Students Sponsored by Boston University
You are eligible to apply for an SSN in either of these cases:
- If you have been authorized by the ISSO to begin an on-campus job
- If you have been granted Academic Training (AT) employment authorization for a job off campus
J-1 Scholars (Professor, Research Scholar, Specialist, Short-Term Scholar, Student Intern) Sponsored by Boston University
You are eligible for U.S. employment as reflected on your DS-2019 and can apply for a SSN at any time up to 15 days prior to the end of your Form DS-2019.
J-1 Students or Scholars Sponsored by an Outside Agency
Consult with your J-1 Exchange Program Sponsor to ask about whether you are eligible for U.S. work and about the documentation you will need to apply.
Other Employees (H-1, O-1, TN, etc.)
You can apply for your SSN as soon as possible after the beginning of either the start date on your I-797 Approval Notice, as soon as possible after entering the U.S. in the appropriate status but no later than 15 days prior to the end of the approved period of your employment authorization.
Students and Employees with an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
You are eligible to apply for your SSN after the validly period of the EAD has begun, and no later than 15 days prior to the expiration of the EAD. (Students in F-1 status, see above.)
Applying for a Social Security Number
All employees paid by Boston University must have a valid Social Security Number for tax purposes.
You can be hired by Boston University and begin working without one, but immediately after you are hired, you must apply for a Social Security number from the Social Security Administration (SSA).
Documentation for Social Security Application
Certification of On-Campus Employment for a Social Security Number Application has been created in Adobe PDF format and contains fillable fields.
Your supervisor or hiring department should use Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader to complete all the fields and then print the form on department letterhead. After your supervisor signs the form and gives the original to you, bring the completed form to the ISSO to obtain an endorsement by an International Student Advisor
- International students in F-1 status: The Social Security Administration (SSA) has approved the following form to be used to certify on-campus employment for Boston University. The form must be completed by the BU hiring department and printed on department letterhead. The Certification of F-1 Student On-Campus Employment for a Social Security Number Application has been created in Adobe PDF format and contains fillable fields.
- Your supervisor or hiring department should use Adobe Acrobat or Adobe Reader to complete all the fields and then print the form on department letterhead.
- International students in J-1 status: This is not required.
- Go to the International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO) with your immigration documents (passport, I-94 card, and I-20 or DS-2019), your Boston University Terrier card, and the certification letter completed by your hiring supervisor on departmental letterhead. The ISSO will then endorse your certification.
All acceptable documents must be original, or copies certified by the issuing agency, unexpired and must show name, date of birth or age. You must present all of the following documentation:
- Unexpired foreign passport with U.S. visa folio inside
- Original Form I-94 Departure card, if applicable, or printout of I-94 from your most recent entry
- Additional documents depending on your immigration status to show U.S. employment authorization. These can be determined by downloading a full set of instructions which includes a chart of the necessary additional documents
Social Security Number Application Submission Process
See guidance for international students at: International Students and Social Security Numbers (ssa.gov)
After the application is submitted, you must visit a local Social Security office in person to present the appropriate documentation within 45 calendar days.
- Have your Certification of On-Campus Employment letter (endorsed by ISSO), as well as immigration documents (passport, I-94, and I-20 or DS-2019). Use the Social Security Administration’s Evidence Requirements form to make sure you have all the documents you need.
If you have any questions regarding this process or the forms, please don’t hesitate to contact the ISSO.
Using the SSA office locator tool for locations and hours. The Boston office below is generally the most convenient location for BU students and scholars:
Social Security Administration
Thomas P. O’Neill Federal Office Building
10 Causeway Street, Room 148
Boston, MA 02222
By MBTA: North Station “T” stop on the Green or Orange Line; the building is next to the TD Garden.
Receiving Your Social Security Card and Number
The Social Security Administration may need some time to verify your current immigration status before they can issue a Social Security Card. In most cases, a Social Security Card should be mailed to the address you listed on your application form within 14 business days. If you do not receive a Social Security Card within 30–60 days, you should contact the Social Security Administration via telephone at 800-772-1213 or visit the Social Security Administration website to ask about the status of your pending application.
The notation on the Social Security Card should read “Valid for Employment Only with DHS Authorization”. This clarifies to your employer that the Social Security Card itself does not give you work permission in the U.S. and that you will need to obtain separate work permission in order to start working. To find out more about employment authorization, please contact a staff member at the ISSO or visit the Employment and Internships page on our website.
Once you receive your Social Security number, please report it to Student Employment with your physical card and BU ID card in-person OR submit electronically through a secure email. Any government identification should not be shared through regular email or phone.
- To submit in person, you should go to the FirstPoint counter at 881 Commonwealth Ave, 2nd floor with your Social Security Number card and BU ID.
- To submit electronically, you should send a secure email with the subject “SSN Submission”. If the hyperlink does not work, the full link is: https://firstname.lastname@example.org. Please use your BU email. The email message must include full Social Security Number and UID.
Additional information can be found on the ISSO website.