Social Security Number

Only international students and scholars authorized to work in the United States by the Department of Homeland Security can get a Social Security Number (SSN). For more information regarding work authorization, on or off campus, visit our employment page.

New students MUST wait to apply for a Social Security card until they register for classes and their record is activated in SEVIS. This usually happens two weeks after the start of the semester. If you apply before your record is activated your application will be rejected.

New J-1 scholars must wait to apply until after completing the ISSS check-in process and attending J-1 Scholar Orientation with the ISSS. 


The table below summarizes SSN eligibility and requirements:

Immigration Status Am I eligible? Requirements
F-1 Enrolled Students   Maybe You have paid on-campus employment or CPT work authorization for a paid position, and are registered for classes. F-2 dependents are not eligible.
F-1 Students on OPT Maybe Must have USCIS Employment Authorization Document
J-1 Students Maybe You have on-campus employment and written work authorization letter from ISSS.
J-1 Scholars Yes -
J-2 Dependents Maybe You have USCIS work authorization

Students who are not eligible for a Social Security card will still be able to open a bank account, buy a cell phone and accomplish other tasks where a Social Security card might be asked for. If you are not eligible for a Social Security card, you can ask the Social Security Administration office for a Letter of Ineligibility.

Students who are not eligible for a Social Security card but are required to report scholarship income to the U.S. Internal Revenue Authority (IRS) can apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). More Information on the ITIN can be found online.

How to apply

Obtain proof of eligibility

Immigration Status Documents Needed
F-1/J-1 Students

Obtain a letter of employment from your on-campus employer and have it endorsed by the ISSS. See guidelines and link to sample letter below.

Once you have a letter from your on-campus employer, you will need to bring the letter to ISSS during office hours for a signature. 

F-1 Students on OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by USCIS
F-1 Students on CPT CPT authorization on page 3 of I-20 
J-1 Students Letter of authorization from ISSS for on-campus employment or for off-campus Academic Training
J-1 Research Scholars, Professors, and Short-term Scholars Offer/invitation letter from your academic department
J-2 Dependents Employment Authorization Document (EAD) issued by USCIS

Employment letter for on-campus employment

F-1 Students

F-1 international students working on campus must have a paid job or an offer for a paid job before they can apply for a Social Security card. A letter must be submitted to prove you have employment and are eligible for a Social Security card.

The on-campus employer's letter must include:

  • The name of the student employee
  • Nature of job that the student is, or will be engaged in
  • Anticipated or actual start date
  • Number of hours student is expected to work
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Employer contact information, including telephone number and name of immediate supervisor
  • Original signature, signatory title, and date

You can find a sample employment letter online.

Once your on-campus employer has issued the letter, you need to bring it to the ISSS office during business hours. A designated school official (DSO) in ISSS will review your letter and sign it. You must take the letter with the DSO signature to the Social Security Administration office to apply for an SSN.

J-1 Students and Scholars

J-1 students and scholars must have a job or a job offer before they can apply for a Social Security Card. 

  • J-1 students can present their Letter of Authorization for on campus employment or for Academic Training off-campus. These letters are issued by the ISSS after authorizing J-1 student on-campus employment or Academic Training.
  • J-1 scholars can present a funding letter from Binghamton University issued by the university or Research Foundation.

Apply for an SSN at the Social Security Administration Office

The Social Security Administration Office is located at 2 Court Street in downtown Binghamton. You will need the following documents:

    • Your passport
    • Your I-20/DS-2019
    • Your I-94 record
    • A completed Social Security application
    • Proof of employment eligibility
    • If you are working on campus: a copy of your award letter, or a letter from your on-campus employer confirming your job offer or that you are employed. The letter must be counter-signed by a Designated School Official in the ISSS office.

All documents must be originals. Photocopies or notarized copies will not be accepted.

Your Social Security card will be mailed to you in 3-5 weeks. Make sure your name is on your mailbox because SSN cards will not be delivered to unmarked mailboxes. 

Once you receive your Social Security card, be sure to show it to your employer so that they can update your payroll records. Store your Social Security card in a safe place; do not carry it with you on a daily basis. 

If there are any spelling errors on your Social Security card, you will need to visit the SSA office in person with all of the documents listed above to request a correction. For more information on the rules and guidelines for Social Security Numbers, visit the SSA website.