What is a Social Security Number?
A Social Security number is only assigned to people who are authorized to work in the United States. It is used to post wages to Social Security records so workers can become eligible for Social Security benefits. Social Security will only issue you a number if you are working, have specific authorization to work, or have a government requirement to be issued a number.
What if a certain company or business requires me to have a social security number in order to receive services?
Many private service providers in the U.S. such as mobile phone and cable television companies ask you to provide a social security number in order to receive their services. These companies use the social security number as a convenient way to perform personal credit checks as well as assign you a unique personal identification number for their records. Legally, these companies cannot require you to provide a social security number as it can only legally be requested by your employer or the U.S. government. However, because many of these companies have policies and forms that ask for social security numbers, they may be difficult to work with if you are without one. Many international students encounter problems with these companies because they are unable to provide a social security number. Be patient and search for a good company that will provide you the services you need. It may also be helpful to ask other international students how they overcame this problem.
Remember: Social Security will only issue you a number if you are working, have specific authorization to work, or have a government requirement to be issued a number.
What can you do if you need a number for tax purposes?
If you need a number for tax purposes and you are not authorized to work in the U.S., you can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Visit IRS in person or call the IRS toll-free number, 1-800-TAXFORM (1-800-829-3676), and request Form W-7, Application For an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number. See reverse side of this form for more information on the ITIN.
Do I need a number for other government services?
Lawfully admitted non-citizens can get many benefits and services without having a Social Security number. You do not need a number to purchase savings bonds, conduct business with a bank, register for school or apply for educational tests, obtain private health insurance, apply for school lunch programs or apply for subsidized housing.
How do I apply for a Social Security Number?
The Social Security Administration (SSA) will issue a number for F-1 students who already have a campus job; have been authorized to participate in Curricular Practical Training (CPT); or have been authorized to participate in Optional Practical Training (OPT) and have secured employment.
In addition to the documents listed below, F-1 Students need a letter from ISS in order to apply for an SSN. In order to get a letter from ISS, you must bring a job offer letter to ISS during our open hours (Monday â€“ Friday, 10 am to 4 pm). It will take ISS three business days to produce a letter that must take to SSA.
If the UW-Madison is your sponsor, apply for on-campus work permission at ISS. If not, you must request work permission from your sponsor listed on your DS-2019.
J-1 students will take the following items to the Social Security Administration (SSA).
*All F-1 and J-1 student visa holders entering the US will receive I-94 arrival/departure record information. For individuals entering the US via an air or sea port, US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) gathers travelersâ€™ arrival/departure information automatically from their electronic travel records. Travelers can retrieve and print their I-94 number and other admission information online at CBP.gov/I94. For individuals enter the US via land border ports of entry, US CBP will still issue a paper form I-94 that travelers can use to as an admission record to verify immigration status.
**Students sponsored by the University of Wisconsin-Madison (program number P-1-00105) can obtain a letter authorizing employment by completing the On-campus Employment Application for J-1 Students. Additionally, take a Letter of Enrollment showing you are registered for a full course load. (Letters of Enrollment are available in the Registrarâ€™s Office, 333 East Campus Mall.)
Please Note (Both F-1 & J-1 Students): Once you have obtained the Social Security number, you should take it to the Registrarâ€™s Office, 333 East Campus Mall, to update their records.
Please contact the Social Security Administration for more complete details.
Social Security Administration
6011 Odana Road