UMD: A Globally Connected University

Social Security

Social Security

(International Students)

Social Security Numbers are issued for tax purposes only. They are used to identify you within the government tax and pension system. Only those who have authorized employment are eligible for Social Security cards. They are not general purpose IDs. Accordingly, you do not need a Social Security number to:

  • open a bank account
  • rent an apartment
  • open a utility account (e.g. electricity, gas)
  • set up a cell phone account
  • register your children for school
  • conduct business with other financial institutions
  • Receive a driver's license

If a business representative or service provider asks you for a Social Security number, simply inform him/her that you are an international student and do not have a Social Security Card.

However, as a nonimmigrant in the U.S., you will need a Social Security Number if you wish to work. A Social Security card is not proof of work authorization.

F-2 and H-4 dependents are not eligible for SSNs in most cases. Those who are not eligible for a SSN may apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the Internal Revenue Service.


Gathering all required documentation to take with you to the Social Security Administration may take some time. If you have already scheduled an appointment at the Social Security Administration, give yourself plenty of time before the appointment to request all required documentation (see list below) from your employer and/or ISSS. If you need to request the on-campus employment letter through iTerp, we recommend requesting this letter at least 3-5 business days before your scheduled SSN appointment.

To apply for an SSN call the nearest SSA office to schedule an appointment. Bring the following documents to your appointment:

#1. Name- Use the name on your I-20/DS-2019 and I-94.  If you have a middle name include it with your first name.

#3. Citizenship- check "Legal Alien Allowed to Work"

#9. A. Mother's Maiden Name- This is the name of your mother's given name before she was married (if different).

B. Mother's Social Security Number- If your mother ever lived in the U.S. and had a Social Security Number, put it here. If not, leave this blank.

#10. A. Father's Name- Your father's family name

B. Father's Social Security Number- If your father ever lived in the U.S. and had a Social Security Number, put it here. If not, leave this blank.

#16. Mailing Address- Use your local address where you plan to receive the card in the mail. Please format the address according to USPS standards.

  • An employment letter from your employer on official letterhead 
    • Bring the original document to the SSA. It should contain the following information:
      • Job description
      • Employment start date
      • Number of hours of work per week
      • Your supervisor’s name and telephone number
      • Supervisor or hiring manager must sign and date the letter.
  • Optional: A recent pay stub may be used instead of an employment letter.
  • For students working on-campus only: A letter from ISSS that verifies your status. Request a Social Security Letter by logging into your iTerp account and navigating to F-1 Student Services>Letter Request. (Not required if you are applying based on your approved CPT or OPT work authorization.)
  • Your passport, original and copy. It must be at least one year old or you will need a second form of photo ID in English. (An official TOEFL score report at least one year old works well.)
  • I-94, original and copy.
  • I-20/DS-2019, original and copy.
  • Student or ID card.

**You must wait at least 14 days after entering the U.S. to apply for a SSN. In addition, you must wait around 10 days after you have submitted your immigration documents for Documents Check and received confirmation that your SEVIS record has been activated.

**If you are applying for an SSN based on CPT or on-campus employment you may not apply more than 30 days prior to the start date indicated on your offer letter.

**If you are applying for an SSN based on off-campus employment which requires USCIS to issue an EAD card, you may not apply prior to the start date on your EAD card.

When you apply for an SSN, ask the service representative to give you a receipt for your application. Your department may place you on payroll before you receive the card if you have the receipt.

After you turn in your application to a social security representative, your documents will be returned to you. You will receive your SSN card by mail several weeks later.

For additional instructions or information, review this information from the Social Security Administration.

The Social Security Administration may need to verify your immigration status to process your application. To verify your status, they use the SAVE program, a service that is administered by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services. In most cases, the SAVE verification can be completed in person during your Social Security application. 

In a small number of cases, the agency may need to complete a request for additional verification through the SAVE program. This may take some time and students should remain patient while the SSA works with USCIS to complete the additional verification. The SSA should be able to provide you with a verification case number which you can use to follow the application on SAVE CaseCheck.