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Teachers College, Columbia University
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Taxes and Social Security > Applying for a Social Security Number

Applying for a Social Security Number

APPLYING FOR A SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER

A Social Security Number (SSN) is a 9-digit employee and tax identification number issued by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA). Eligibility for a Social Security Number is based upon a person's eligibility to accept lawful employment while in the United States. Foreign nationals are eligible to apply for SSNs only in specific circumstances.

You can download a copy of this instruction here.

PURPOSE OF A SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBER

A Social Security Number (SSN) is required by the U.S. government for tax reporting purposes.  Anyone who is engaged in paid employment or who is receiving taxable stipends, scholarships, or government benefits must have a SSN.

SSNs are often used for a variety of unofficial purposes, such as opening telephone, utility, or bank/credit card accounts. While having a SSN is convenient for these reasons, international students and scholars must demonstrate a valid employment or tax-related purpose in order to be eligible for a SSN. If you have difficulty opening a bank account or other types of accounts because you do not have a SSN, please contact the Office of International Services (OIS).

NOTE: Having a Social Security Number does not mean that you have legal authorization to work in the U.S. However, you must have a Social Security Number if you have been granted legal authorization to work (for F-1 students) and are working.

GENERAL ELIGIBILITY REQUIREMENTS FOR F-1 / J-1 INDIVIDUALS

F-1 students and J-1 students/scholars under Teachers College sponsorship may apply for SSNs provided they meet SSA eligibility requirements. These include:

  • Valid immigration documents, including a valid passport, valid I-20 or DS-2019, and an I-94 card or electronic I-94 notated "F-1 D/S" or "J-1 D/S."
  • Full-time registration at Teachers College (students only)
  • F-1 students must also provide evidence of lawful F-1 employment such as an on-campus job or authorization for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT).
  • J-1 students and scholars are not required to show evidence of employment, but must be in valid J-1 status. (J-1 students and scholars under the sponsorship of an external organization such as IIE, LASPAU, or AMIDEAST should obtain a Social Security letter from their sponsor.)


SSN APPLICATION PROCEDURE FOR F-1 STUDENTS

1.  Obtain evidence of employment and valid F-1 employment authorization. To apply for a SSN, you must first obtain documentation certifying that you have valid F-1 employment. Acceptable documentation can be one of the following:

  • On-Campus Employment: Obtain a letter from a TC or Columbia department confirming that you have been offered an on-campus job. See the next page for a sample department letter. The employment letter must be printed on department letterhead, signed on the original by your hiring department.
  • Curricular Practical Training: Obtain an updated Form I-20 from TC showing that you have been authorized to engage in F-1 Curricular Practical Training (employment based on an academic internship / fieldwork / practicum)
  • Optional Practical Training or other off-campus employment: Obtain a valid, unexpired Employment Authorization (EAD) card from the US Citizenship and Immigration Services authorizing you to work under F-1 optional practical training, international organization employment, or severe economic hardship employment.

2.  Come to the OIS to request a SSN Letter.  If you are requesting a Social Security Number based on on-campus employment, you must bring your TC or CU department letter to the OIS. The OIS will issue a second letter to confirm that you have secured on-campus employment and that you are a full-time student in good standing.  An OIS letter is not required if your employment is based on curricular practical training, optional practical training, international organization employment, or severe economic hardship employment.

3.  Go to a Social Security Card Center (see below) to apply for a SSN. Complete the Social Security form SSA-5 (available at the SSA office). No fee is required. Bring your:

  • Form I-20
  • Passport
  • I-94 card or electronic I-94
  • Supporting documentation:

        -    If you are working on-campus: Employment letters from your on-campus employer and the OIS
        -    If you are engaged in CPT: Your I-20 must have an authorization for CPT printed on page 3 of the form
        -    If you are engaged in OPT: You must also bring your unexpired Employment Authorization (EAD) card.

When you submit your application, your documents will be reviewed by a SSA examiner. Once your application is accepted, ask for an application receipt so that you can show your employer that you have applied for a SSN.  You can expect to receive your SSN within 4-6 weeks, although processing times vary.

SSN APPLICATION PROCEDURE FOR J-1 STUDENTS / J-1 SCHOLARS

1.  Come to the OIS for a SSN Letter.  If you are a J-1 student or J-1 scholar under the sponsorship of TC's J-1 exchange visitor program, come to the OIS to request a Social Security letter. The OIS will certify that you are a full-time student in good standing or that you are a J-1 scholar under TC sponsorship. You do not need to have evidence of on-campus or other kinds of employment to apply for a SSN, although you are required to apply for a SSN if you have valid J-1 employment, including on-campus employment, unforeseen economic hardship employment, or J-1 Academic Training.

If you are sponsored by an external organization such as IIE, LASPAU, or AMIDEAST, you must obtain a Social Security authorization letter from your sponsor in addition to the letter from the OIS.

2.  Go to a Social Security Office (see below) to apply for a SSN.  Complete Social Security form SSA-5 (available at the SSA office). No fee is required. Bring your:

  • Form DS-2019

  • Valid, unexpired passport

  • I-94 card or electronic I-94

  • Letter from the OIS (and your external J-1 sponsor, if applicable)

When you submit your application, your documents will be reviewed by a SSA examiner. Once your application is accepted, ask for an application receipt.  You can expect to receive your SSN within 4-6 weeks, although processing times vary.

 

SOCIAL SECURITY CARD CENTERS

As of August 13, 2012 if you live or receive mail in Manhattan, Brooklyn, the Bronx, or Queens, you must go to a Social Security Card Center in order to apply for a social security number or replacement card.  Other Social Security field offices located in Manhattan no longer issue social security numbers or replacement cards.  You can apply at any of the Social Security Card Centers listed below.  You do not need to apply at the card center located in the borough where you live.

If you live or receive mail in Staten Island, New Jersey, Connecticut, or another area, you can either apply at a local office near your place of residence or at any of the Social Security Card Centers listed below:

 Manhattan Social Security Center:   

123 William Street, 3rd Fl., New York, NY 10038
Take the A / C/ J / Z / 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 to Fulton St.

Bronx Social Security Center:        

820 Concourse Village West, 2nd Fl., Bronx, NY 10451

Take 4 / D to Yankee Stadium (161 River Ave)

Brooklyn Social Security Center:        

625 Fulton Street (10 Metrotech Center), 6th Fl., Brooklyn, NY 11201
Take D / M / N / Q / R to Dekalb Ave; 2 / 3 / 4 / 5 to Nevins St.

Queens Social Security Card Center:   

155-10 Jamaica Avenue, 2nd Floor, Jamaica, NY 11432
Take the E / J to Jamaica

All Social Security Card Centers listed above are open Monday to Friday, 7:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m

 

Office of International Services
Teachers College, Columbia University
Box 7, 525 W 120th Street
New York, New York 10027-6696
Phone: (212) 678-3939 ♦ ~ Fax: (212) 678-3990 ♦ Email: