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Social Security Information

What is Social Security?

Social Security is a U.S. government program that provides benefits for U.S. citizens and U.S permanent residents, usually for retirement. It is financed by taxes withheld from the paychecks of working people.

What is a Social Security Card?

A Social Security card is required for everyone who works in the U.S., even non-immigrants. On the card will be your unique Social Security Number (SSN) that you will keep for life.  You will need the number for employment purposes and paying taxes.  A Social Security card is not a work permit. Visit the Social Security Administration’s web site for more information at

Who is eligible to apply for a Social Security Number?

  • F-1 students with a job offer letter and work permission
  • J-1 students with a job offer and work permission from their DS-2019 sponsor
  • J-1 scholars who are being paid by JHU or another U.S. source
  • J-2 dependents with work permission from the USCIS (EAD)
  • Individuals with other types of immigration status allowing employment

Note: F-2 dependents are not eligible for Social Security Numbers

An SSN is issued once per lifetime.  If you have previously had a SSN, but do not have the card or do not remember the number, you can apply for a duplicate card if you meet the eligibility requirements above.

When to Apply for a Social Security Number

Applications made too early may be rejected or delayed beyond the usual processing time. Students and visiting scholars must be physically present in the U.S. to apply for an SSN.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) is required to verify your legal entry into the U.S. before issuing an SSN.

Student Application

  • New F-1 and J-1 students must wait at least 10 business days after arrival in the U.S. and being registered
  • No more than 30 days before on-campus or F-1 CPT or J-1 AT work authorization begins
  • No more than 30 days before the start date on your Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

Scholar Application

  • New J-1 Scholars must wait at least 10 business days after their DS-2019 start date.
  • J-2 dependents must have an EAD Card that begins no more than 30 days from the application date of the SSN.

Working While Awaiting an SSN

You may work while the Social Security number application is being processed.  There is no provision in the law that required employers to have their employees’ SSNs before hiring them.  There is no provision that prohibits an employee from beginning work if he or she has not yet obtained an SSN.  However, you must have employment authorization from your program sponsor or USCIS before you begin working.

Social Security Number Safety

Although a SSN is only meant to be used for tax and government purposes, it is often used by financial institutions, businesses, and others as a unique identification number. Because the SSN is a unique ID, it is often the target of “identity theft”. Therefore you should be very careful about where and to whom you give your SSN.

  • Never carry your Social Security card or number with you. Keep it at home in a secure place.
  • Only give your SSN to someone who has a specific and legitimate need for it.
  • Be very careful with any forms, applications or other materials that may have your SSN on it.
  • Never give your SSN to someone who phones you. You should initiate the call or meet in person.
  • Never reply to email or web sites that request a SSN.

Business Uses for Social Security Numbers

Most businesses do not need a SSN from you unless it is for credit purposes (loans, credit cards, etc.) If a business requests a SSN solely for ID purposes, you can request that the business create an ID for you. You do not need a SSN to open bank accounts. If a bank clerk insists on a SSN, ask to speak to a manager.

How to Apply for a SSN

In order to apply for a SSN you must be employed by a U.S. source. First, wait the necessary amount of time after entering the U.S.  Next, gather the required documentation below.  Lastly, complete the SSN Application and take it in person to your local SSA office along with the required supporting documentation.  

Required Supporting Documentation for Application:

H-1B EmployeesTNO-1
DS-2019 XX   
I-797 Approval Notice   Recommended Recommended
Employer’s LetterXX    
Letter from OISX     

Employer’s Letter

For specific instructions regarding the letter that you must bring with you from your Employer please see the SSA website.

Students receiving a stipend from JHU can use their admission offer letter instead of an employer letter.

Your supervisor must sign and date on official letterhead a letter that includes the following information:

  • Your name
  • Your job
  • Your employment start date
  • The number of hours you are, or will be, working; and
  • Your supervisor’s name and telephone number.

Letter from the OIS for F-1 Students with on-campus employment

Complete the following e-form to request an SSN letter

  1. Go to the i-Hopkins web portal.
  2. Click “Login” under “Active JHED Login”.
  3. Log in with your JHED credentials.
  4. Click “University Employment” on the left side of the screen.
  5. Select “SSN Letter Request.”
  6. Complete the e-form and upload a copy of your employment letter (see Employer’s Letter requirements above) or admission offer letter (students receiving a JHU stipend). 
  7. You will be contacted by email when your SSN letter is shipped. 

The Social Security Administration cannot process your application if:

  • Your on-campus or F-1 Curricular Practical Training work begins more than 30 days from your application date; or
  • The employment start date on your EAD Form I-766 or I-688B is a future date.
  • You failed to check in with the OIS and wait at least 10 business days after your visa document start date before applying for your SSN.