You are required by law to have a Social Security Number (SSN) in order to be paid for work in the US. If you are not working in a paid position, you do not need an SSN. Unfortunately SSN’s are often used as identification numbers for other kinds of applications, such as credit cards or cell phone accounts. While having an SSN is convenient, you can NOT apply for an SSN unless you have a job offer. If you have received a job offer, follow these steps to apply for an SSN.
Social Security Numbers (SSN)
Step 1: Are you eligible to apply for an SSN?
- Is your SEVIS record registered by the IES staff? (If you are trying to apply before the first few months of your first semester, please check with the IES office to make sure your record is registered!)
- Do you have a job offer?
- Have you been in the US at least a few days?
If you answered yes to these questions, you are ready to go to the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office to apply for your Social Security Number (SSN). In order to apply for a social security number (SSN), you will need to visit an office of the SSA in person – you cannot apply by mail or online.
SSN Process Changes During COVID-19
During the COVID-19 pandemic, Social Security Administration (SSA) Offices are closed to the public. They are accepting new SSN applications, but require official documents be mailed to them. The SSA will not accept applications more than 30 days before you start your job. We recommend the following steps:
- Call the SSA to make sure they are still accepting mail-in applications, confirm the mailing address to use, and if there is any kind of mail service they need to use. You will likely need to use a mail service that does NOT require a signature, as no staff are on site.
Most students have preferred to work with the Baltimore City office, which can be reached at 1-866-931-9942.
- After confirming the way they want you to manage the application, you can compile and mail your application. Be sure to send the following:
- your ACTUAL passport (not a copy)
- a copy of your most recent I-94
- copy of your job offer letter
- actual most recent I-20 (not a copy)
- letter from IES confirming your status as a student – please email firstname.lastname@example.org with a copy of your job offer to request this
- Completed and signed SSN application: https://www.ssa.gov/forms/ss-5.pdf Be sure to capture your name and mailing address correctly, so your documents are returned to you without a problem.
- The SSA will return your original documents with your SSN card typically in 2 weeks.
After you apply:
You should present a copy of the receipt from SSA to your employer. It can take 2-3 weeks for you to receive your Social Security card in the mail. When you receive the card, it is important to check the spelling of your name, sign the card and take to the department where you were hired to complete any necessary paperwork.
Your SSN does not expire or change once it has been issued to you.
Letter of Ineligibility
This is a letter provided by the Social Security Administration to state that you are not currently eligible for an SSN. This is most commonly needed for the MVA, when you apply for either a State ID or a Driver’s License.
To apply, take the following to an SSA office:
Valid Passport, visa, current I-20, I-94
You will also need a letter from IES office certifying your good F-1 status – please visit the IES Portal to request this letter, and please allow a few days processing time.
Social Security Administration Office Hours and Locations
HOURS – All SSA locations are open 9am – 4:00pm, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday;
Wednesdays only the office is only open from 9am – 12pm (noon)
Please plan to wait – a trip to the SSA can often take some time, possibly hours. Be prepared to wait and take something to do while waiting. Avoid going at the end of their business hours.
Preferred by students:
1010 Park Avenue
Baltimore, MD 21210
*Accessible by multiple kinds of public transit, including the free Charm City Circulator from downtown (downtown can be reached using the UMBC shuttle of MTA public bus system).
Closest to Campus:
1531 S Edgewood Street
Baltimore MD 21227
*The number 77 public bus picks up on campus and gets close to this location. You can get off at the Washington Blvd and Hammonds Ferry Road stop and walk about a half mile to the location. Please be sure to use a GPS service like Google Maps to see exactly where to walk. Students also often take an Uber or taxi to this location.
You can find the number 77 bus schedule here.
337 Hospital Drive
Glen Burnie, MD 21061
*This location is very difficult to reach via public transportation.
Social Security Location Finder: https://secure.ssa.gov/apps6z/FOLO/Controller
Mapping Service websites, to plan your trip: maps.google.com, www.mapquest.com
SSN Information specific to international students: http://www.ssa.gov/pubs/10181.html
For questions or concerns, please contact the IES office at UMBC at 410-455-2624 or email@example.com, or stop by our office on the 2nd floor of the Administration Building, room 224.