Carnegie Mellon University

Applying for a Social Security Number

A Social Security Number (SSN) is a unique, nine-digit identification number issued by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA). Your SSN is used to report wages to the government and is different from your Student ID number. You will need to apply for and receive an SSN, which is separate from your work authorization, to work in the U.S.

You do not need an SSN to do things such as open a bank account, get utilities connected or obtain a cell phone. Although an SSN may be requested for many activities, it is only required for employment. However, you may need to take additional steps, such as paying a deposit, if you do not have an SSN.

In general, international students, faculty and staff will need authorized employment to be eligible for an SSN.

F-1 and J-1 students are eligible to apply for an SSN if they:

  • Have an on-campus job or
  • Have off-campus work authorization through CPT, OPT, or Academic Training.
    • CPT – up to 30 days before the start date listed on CPT I-20.
    • OPT – only from the start date on approved OPT EAD (you can apply when you submit your OPT application to USCIS).

J-1 scholars and J-1 student interns are eligible to apply due to their work on campus.

International students and scholars can apply in-person for an SSN at the nearest Social Security Administration office. You can use the SSN Office locator tool or call the national SSA line at 1-800-772-1213 to obtain the local SSA office number.

1) Complete the OIE Immigration Check-In

Before you can apply for an SSN Number or SSN Denial Letter, new students and scholars must complete the Mandatory Immigration Check-In. During the Mandatory Immigration Check-In, OIE checks your immigration documents and activates your SEVIS Immigration Record. After OIE approves your Mandatory Immigration Check-in (new students) or after you have attended Scholar Orientation (new scholars) you will need to wait at least 10 days before applying for an SSN to ensure that your SEVIS record is available to the SSA office.

This is completed your first semester at Carnegie Mellon University and/or after a Return from Leave of Absence. Continuing students and scholars do not need to attend another orientation. 

2) Complete the Online SSN Form

Complete the online SSN application for a Social Security Card. To complete the form, you will need to gather all required immigration and work eligibility documents. Be sure to print the control number on the confirmation page and bring it to your appointment.

3) Submit Your Application

After completing the online SSN application and gathering all of your required immigration and work eligiblity documents (see chart below), you'll apply in-person at your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office. The SSA will verify your documents with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before approving and assigning you an SSN. 

If you are based in Pittsburgh, once you complete the SSN online application, you will be prompted to make an appointment at the SSN office located at 6117 Station Street, Pittsburgh, PA 15206 (East Liberty).

Required Documents F-1 and J-1 Students J-1 Student Interns J-1 Scholars H-1B Workers
Passport (unexpired) Yes Yes Yes Yes
Printed I-94 record Yes Yes Yes Yes


I-20/DS-2019 DS-2019 DS-2019 Form I-797:
H-1B Approval Notice

Work Eligibility

You must present A, B, C or D.

A. With On Campus Job: Completed Social Security Number Form
B. On CPT: CPT I-20
C. On OPT: OPT I-20 and EAD card
D. On AT: Authorization Letter

OIE status
verification letter
(Student Interns may
request letter from OIE)




4) Receive Your SSN Card in Mail

Once your documents are verified and approved to receive an SSN, you will receive your SSN card in the mail, typically within 14 business days. If you do not receive the card within 30 days, contact the SSA office for further assistance. Do not apply for a second SSN; you will have only one SSN in your lifetime. If you continue to experience difficulties obtaining the card, you can contact OIE.

If you are an F-1 or J-1 student who has secured an on-campus job and requires an SSN, please fill out the Social Security Number Form / F-1 or J-1 Student On-campus Employment (pdf). Once your hiring department signs the form to verify your employment, you can then drop off the form to OIE. OIE will sign to verify your immigration status and you can pick up the form at the OIE front desk after 5 business days. The form is required in order to proceed with the SSN application process.

Note: If you are an F-1 student who has an on-campus job with a CMU food service vendor, have your employer complete this Social Security Number Form (pdf).

  • Memorize your SSN and keep the SSN card in a safe/secure place at home.
  • You are issued one SSN for life. If you received a number previously, you will keep the same number. 
  • Do not give out your SSN to anyone, including your family members or friends, unless it is absolutely necessary. If someone other than a government agency asks for your SSN, you can always ask why they need it. 
  • Beware of online transactions and phone call scams/scammers. You usually are not required to give out your SSN. Be sure that the site/person is trusted and secure if you are told to do so. In some cases, you may have to give the last four digits of your SSN. 
  • As a customer, when you are talking with customer service agents requesting information or filing a complaint, avoid telling them your SSN. In most cases, an agent will only ask you the last four digits of your SSN. 
  • Only government agencies can require you to provide your SSN, but make sure the request is coming from a verified government agency and is not a scam.