Social Security Card

What is a Social Security Number ? 

A social security number (SSN) is required for anyone who has employment in the United States. It  is used mainly for tax purposes to report your wages to the U.S. government. It is a nine digit number issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA) and is valid for life. 

When can I apply for an SSN? 

You are eligible to apply for an SSN once you find employment (after you receive a job offer). Below are certain scenarios:

  • you are a F-1/J-1 student with an on-campus job
  • you are a F-1 student with CPT or OPT authorization
  • you are a J-1 student with academic training authorization
  • you are a J-1 scholar with a SJSU appointment

You must be physically present in the U.S. to apply for an SSN. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will verify your legal presence in Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements Program (SAVE) before issuing an SSN.

Newly Arrived Students and Scholars

  • Must wait at least 10 calendar days after arriving in the U.S.
  • Must wait at least 2 business days after the initial registration/validation of your SEVIS record. 
  • No more than 30 days before your employment start date.

Continuing Students

No more than 30 days before:

  • On-campus employment start date as written on job offer or J-1 On-Campus Authorization form
  • F-1 Curricular Practical Training (CPT) start date on I-20 or J-1 Academic Training start date on DS-2019

How can I apply for a SSN?

  1. Find employment and obtain a job offer letter from employer.
  2. Email ISSS your job offer letter at
  3. ISSS will draft a support letter for your SSN application and will email it to you.
  4. Complete the SSA for S-5
  5. Bring job offer letter, endorsement letter from ISSS,  passport, I-94, and a completed Social Security application to the local  Social Security Administration office. **

** Please note that due to COVID-19, the process is different. ISSS will advise you accordingly.

When can I begin working? 

  • Most employers will require you to have your SSN before starting work. Please check with your employer with regard to their policy.
  • Estimated Social Security Administration processing is 2-4 weeks. Please inquire at the time of application.  

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number  (ITIN)

What is an ITIN?

An ITIN, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, is a tax processing number only available for certain nonresident and resident aliens, their spouses, and dependents who cannot get a Social Security Number (SSN). It is a 9-digit number, beginning with the number "9", formatted like an SSN (NNN-NN-NNNN).

Who needs an ITIN?

  • Some international students, scholars, faculty, or staff may need an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for themselves or for their spouses and children.
  • Some special procedures apply to students who have received “non-service” scholarships or fellowships (no work required) and are not eligible for a Social Security number 
  • If you have U.S. source income, but are not eligible for a social security number, you will need to have an ITIN in order to fill out Internal Revenue Service (IRS) forms and SJSU payroll forms. 
  • The most common example is a student who receives a non-service fellowship that includes money for living expenses. ("Non-service fellowship" means that no work is required.)
  • F-1 students, J-1 students, and J-1 scholars are eligible for Social Security numbers and should not apply for ITINs.

How do I apply for an ITIN?

  • ISSS can provide you with a letter of support, confirming the verification of having seen the following original documents so that you can submit copies:
  • biographical page of your passport
  • I-20/DS-2019
  • F-1/J-1 visa stamp
  • I-94
  • Completed original W-7 form
  • Completed original W-8BEN form (if claiming tax treaty benefits)
  • Copies of all documents verified by an ISSS Staff Member or Locally-Based Certified Agent. Please go here for a list of locally-based certified agents.

**Please contact University Personnel for more information about applying for an ITIN

Contact Us

San José State University

One Washington Square
Student Union - CPGE
San Jose, CA 95192-0135

Office Hours

Monday-Friday 9am – 4:30pm

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