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Social Security Numbers for F-1 Students

A Social Security Number (SSN) is a number assigned by the US government to track your income levels and determine your correct rate of tax withholding. It is required by the office of Human Resources in order to pay you for any Curricular Practical Training (CPT) work you do.

FAQs

How do I apply for a SSN as an F-1 student?

F-1 international students are only eligible to apply for an SSN if they have received a job offer for on-campus employment or have been given off-campus work permission through CPT (Curricular Practical Training) or OPT (Optional Practical Training).  Are you eligible to apply? If yes, see instructions below.

If I appled for an SSN previously, do I have to apply again?

No. The SSN you receive is your number for life and will never change. Keep the number and card in a safe place and do not lost it! If you lose the number or card, the only way to find it is to bring all of your documents back down to the SSN office and essentially re-apply.

Where do I go to apply for an SSN?

If you are eligible to apply for an SSN, you must follow the detailed directions below and you will apply at any of the SSN Offices in Boston. We highly recommend you apply at the SSN Office on Causeway St. (near North Station green line stop) as they are used to working with F-1 International Students.

What if I am ineligible to apply for an SSN, but I am asked for the number?

Many vendors and businesses will ask for an SSN in order to trace your "credit history" to ensure that you have "good credit" and a history of making payments on time and without defaulting. As an international student, you do not have any credit history in the United States and therefore even if you did have an SSN, your credit would come up blank. Explain that you are not eligible for an SSN (and show them this form). Most will let you pay an extra deposit (usually refunded upon making timely payments) instead of doing a credit check.

If you are able to get an SSN, does this mean I can work anywhere?

No, This card does not give you permission to work - it is used only for employer to tax you at the correct rate. As an F-1 student, you are not allowed to work without permission from your International Student Advisor. If you do, it is a violation of your immigration status.

I know I am required to file a tax return and I think I need a social security number for that?

It is true that the United States government requires every international student and scholar to file federal tax documents whether or not you earned money. If you have a social security number you can use this when you fill out the forms.  If you do not have one, you will be assigned an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number instead.

What is the process for applying for an SSN if you have received an on-campus job offer?

  • Ask your employer to complete the Supervisor's Confirmation of Employment Letter on your behalf
    • The letter must be printed on Official MassArt Color Letterhead signed in blue ink by your employer
    • Have your name spelled and formatted exactly to match your passport and I-20
    • Include the current date
  • You or your employer must drop the letter off for your International Student Advisor (ISA) Maggie Shirland at the front desk of the Student Development Office
  • Within 5 business days of receiving your employer's letter, the ISA will issue another letter as proof of your employment at MassArt
  • The ISA will contact you when both letters are ready to pick-up
  • Take both letters to the Social Security Office within 2 weeks of the date on the letters and also bring: 
  • You will receive the Social Security Card in the mail approximately 2 weeks after you apply for it in person
  • It is your responsibility give the number to the Human Resources Office as soon as you receive it in order to avoid any delays in receiving payment.   

Process for applying for an SSN if you have received Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

  • Meet with your International Student Advisor to have your CPT officially approved. You will receive a new I-20 form with endorsed with approval for your CPT
  • No more than 30 days prior to your CPT start date, take the following documents to the Social Security Office: 
  • All of your I-20s (including any previously issued to you by other institutions or by MassArt)
  • You will receive the Social Security Card in the mail approximately 2 weeks after you apply for it in person
  • Make sure you give the number to your employer as soon as you receive it in order to avoid any delays in receiving payment

What is the process for applying for an SSN if I have received Optional Practical Training (OPT)?

  • Meet with your International Student Advisor to have your OPT officially recommended. You will receive a new I-20 form with endorsed with a recommendation for OPT
  • Wait to receive your Employment Authorization Docoument (EAD) card
  • Apply on or after the start date on your EAD card and take the following documents to the Social Security Office
    • Your EAD card
    • Your new I-20 with the OPT endorsement
    • All other previously issued I-20s (including any issued to you by other institutions) 
    • Your passport (including current visa stamp)
    • Printed copy of your current electronic I-94: click link below, check "yes" box and click "submit"
    • SSN application form (can also be obtained at the SSN office where you apply)
    • You will receive the Social Security Card in the mail approximately 2 weeks after you apply for it in person
  • Make sure you give the number to your employer as soon as you receive it in order to avoid any delays in receiving payment.