Social Security Numbers

Apply for a Social Security Number

Social Security Information

Social Security Numbers, or SSNs, are often used as a form of identification for U.S. banks, phone and utility companies, rental agencies and other entities. SSNs can be useful for international students and scholars; however, you must have a job offer in order to apply for one.

Do you have a scholarship with a service component that is paid directly to your Bursar account? Examples include the International Peer Mentoring Program, Sam H. Jones Community Service Scholarships, and the Bepko Learning Center’s academic mentoring programs. If you have this type of scholarship, you probably do not qualify for a Social Security Number. If your scholarship award/s each semester exceeds the value of your tuition, please contact our office.

For tax purposes, anyone receiving income must provide their employer with a Social Security number. If you want to get an SSN, you must apply in person at the local Social Security Administration office.

Social Security Administration (SSA)

The Social Security Administration office closest to the IUPUI campus is their downtown location:

575 N Pennsylvania Street, Room 685
Indianapolis, Indiana 46202
Phone: 1-866-592-2812

You may find other SSA locations as well as office hours on the Social Security Administration website.

Be aware, you only get one SSN for your lifetime. Though the card you get with your number printed on it will look fairly flimsy, this piece of identification is very important. Keep your SSN private and do not share your SSN via email (this often leads to identity theft). Keep your social security card in a safe place with the rest of your immigration documents.

Standard Documents

All international persons must show the following documents to complete an application:

  • Valid passport
  • I-20, DS-2019 or other document indicating non-immigrant/immigrant status
  • A copy of your I-94 record
  • One other piece of identification – a student ID card, driver’s license, credit card, etc.

Additional Materials Required:

  • F-1 and J-1 Students with On-Campus Hourly Jobs or Student Academic Appointments

    All F-1/J-1 students need to submit the standard documents listed above. Also, F-1/J-1 students need a letter from the department offering employment. The letter should follow the format in this sample employer letter, and be printed on the department’s original letterhead.

    In addition, students need to provide a letter from International Affairs. Students can fill out the Social Security Letter request in Atlas. Once the request is approved, students can pick up the letter by bringing their employer letter to the Office of International Affairs.

  • F-1 Students on Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

    Students working with CPT work authorization should submit the documents listed above with their CPT authorized I-20 (on page 3) and job offer for their CPT employment. No letter from OIA is necessary.

  • F-1 Students with an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

    Under certain circumstances, F-1 students can obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) that permits them to work off campus. In most cases, F-1 students with an EAD are on Optional Practical Training. F-1 students who have an EAD need to submit the standard documents listed above and should show their EAD when they apply. Letters from the employer and OIA are not necessary.

  • J-1 Students Not Sponsored by IUPUI

    J-1 students with a sponsor other than “Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis” in Item 2 of their DS-2019 must get a letter from their official sponsor. Many of these sponsors, such as IIE-Fulbright, provide these letters at their orientation. J-1 students must submit this letter in addition to the standard documents listed above.

  • J-1 Scholars

    J scholars must show their original DS-2019 form in addition to the standard documents above. They do not need to submit additional materials. Letters from the employer and OIA are not necessary.

  • H1-B Employees

    H1-B employees should take their passport, I-94 entry record and I-797 Approval Notice to apply for an SSN.


  • F-2 Dependents

    F-2 dependents may not work and therefore do not qualify for a Social Security number. The Social Security Administration office will not accept their application.

  • J-2 Dependents

    If you are in J-2 status, you can obtain an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from the USCIS. Talk to OIA about how to do this. Once you have the EAD, you can take it, along with your passport, I-94 entry record, DS-2019, and another piece of identification to the Social Security Administration to apply.

  • H4 Dependents

    H4 dependents may not work and therefore do not qualify for a Social Security number. The Social Security Administration office will not accept their application.

Timing Issues

  • Entry-based Issues


    Data from your I-94 card or approval notice is input into a federal database called SAVE, and downloaded periodically for other agencies to view. The process is often slow, especially during peak travel times. OIA strongly recommends that you wait a minimum of three weeks after entry into the United States (or Change of Status) before applying for a Social Security number.

    Also, new students need to wait until their SEVIS record is activated before visiting the SSA. New student records are activated in the first week of classes as long as the student is enrolled in classes. If you need to apply for your SSN urgently before classes begin, please email to request early activation.


    If you are a J-1 scholar, you may visit the Social Security Administration once your SEVIS record has been validated. We will validate your J-1 record after you attend scholar orientation at OIA.

  • Job-Based Issues

    If you are applying for a SSN based on a job offer, you cannot apply more than 30 days before your employment start date.

  • Processing Time

    Once you have met all the criteria listed here, your application will usually take about two weeks to process. Your social security card will be sent to you by regular mail.


If at any time you become a permanent resident of the United States, you should return to the Social Security Administration and get your social security card updated so that it contains no USCIS restrictions on employment.