Social Security Numbers (SSN)
A Social Security Number (SSN) is needed to facilitate payment for scholarships, employment in the U.S., and to file a U.S. tax return. Refer to the information below to determine if you are eligible for a SSN and for instructions on how to obtain one:
Requirements/eligibility according to immigration status:
- H-1B: You are eligible to receive a social security number.
- F-1 Enrolled Student:You must have on-campus employment OR curricular practical training, and are registered for classes to be eligible to receive a social security number.
- F-1 Students on OPT: You must have a USCIS Employment Authorization Document to receive a social security number.
- F-2 Dependent: You are NOT eligible to receive a social security number.
- J-1 Student: You must have on-campus employment OR work authorization to be eligible to receive a social security number.
- J-1 Student Intern: You must be paid or receiving a stipend by your hosting department at UT to be eligible to receive a social security number during your internship program. Unpaid J-1 student interns are not eligible to apply for a social security number.
- J-1 Research Scholar/Professor/Short-Term Scholar: You are eligible to receive a social security number.
- J-2 Dependents: You must have a USCIS Employment Authorization Document (J-2 Employment Authorization).
You must wait ten days after you arrive in the United States and:
- Students: wait two business days after registering for classes before applying
- J-1 research scholar/professor/short-term scholar, or student intern: wait three days after attending J-1 Scholar Orientation before applying.
F-1 and J-1 students and scholars who perform authorized employment on-campus or off-campus (with permission from USCIS) are generally exempt from the payment of Social Security Tax. J-2 Dependents who work are not exempt. More information is found in Internal Revenue Service Publication 519.
- Obtain proof of your employment eligibility. Documentation needed according to your immigration status:
- H-1B: Copy of your I-797 H-1B approval
- F-1/J-1 Students: Download the Social Security Employment Verification Letter. Have your employing department complete the top portion of the letter. Then obtain a signature on the bottom portion from ISSS. Please check our appointment website for information on when you can obtain this signature.
- J-1 Research Scholar, Professor, and Short-Term Scholar: Offer/invitation letter from your academic department.
- J-1 Students on Academic Training: Academic Training authorization letter, Academic Training authorization on the DS-2019 and job offer letter.
- F-1 on CPT/OPT: OPT card and job offer letter OR CPT authorization on I-20 and job offer letter.
- J-2: Obtain an Employment Authorization document (EAD) issued from USCIS.
- J-1 Student Interns: Download the Social Security Employment Verification Letter. Have your employing department complete the top portion of the letter. Then obtain a signature on the bottom portion from ISSS. Please bring the Employment Verification Letter to J-1 Orientation or email email@example.com for confirmation on when you can obtain the signature from ISSS. You will also need to bring the offer/invitation letter from your hosting department to the Social Security Administration Office in addition to your immigration documents.
- Apply in person at the Social Security Administration Office. Take the following documents with you:
- Proof of employment eligibility (according to the chart above);
- Form SS5, Application for a Social Security Card;
- Your passport and visa;
- Form I-94;
- F-1 Students: Form I-20;
- J-1 Exchange Visitors: Form DS-2019 (J-1 Student Interns should also bring form DS-7002)
- Original birth certificate (recommended)
- Ask for a receipt after submitting your application. The average time to process a Social Security card application is two to four weeks.
- Report your Social Security Number to the University of Texas at Austin:
Government agencies use the SAVE system, which stands for Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements, to determine if you are in a valid immigration status before granting a benefit such as a driver’s license or social security number. Sometimes the officer assisting you at Social Security Administration (SSA) may not be able to immediately verify your valid student or scholar visa status. If the SSA officer is not able to verify your status in the SAVE system, you should politely ask to speak with a supervisor. Supervisors at SSA may have more training in F-1 and J-1 visa issues and be better able to assist in the SAVE verification process. If a supervisor is not able to verify your valid student status, SSA should initiate a secondary verification process.
Here are some common reasons students and scholars are not able to get a Social Security Number on the first try:
- You have gone to the SSA office too early. After you arrive in the U.S., the International Office updates your SEVIS record (I-20 or DS-2019) to show that you are here and that you have checked in with our office. Students should plan to wait at least 10 days from entering the U.S. and at least 2 days from registering for classes before visiting SSA. J-1 scholars should wait at least 10 days from entering the U.S. and 3 days after attending the J-1 Scholar Orientation. Transfer students and students who have an I-20 that has been updated for change of level will need to wait at least two days after checking in and registering for classes before visiting SSA.
- Inconsistencies in your immigration documents. If your name on your I-20 or DS-2019 does not match your passport exactly, please bring this to the attention of the International Office before visiting SSA.
- You have a pending change of status or OPT application. If you are changing to a new immigration status or you are applying for OPT, it may be difficult for the SSA officer to verify your valid status. If this is the case for you, be sure to ask to meet with a supervisor at SSA. Even if you meet with a supervisor, additional research may be required to verify your status. If this is the case, the SSA officer will initiate a secondary verification of your status. You should expect delays in the processing of your Social Security Number if you have a pending OPT or STEM OPT application, you have a cap gap I-20, or you have a pending change of status application.
What to do if your status cannot be verified:
- Be sure to bring all immigration documents with you to your appointment with SSA:
- If you have a pending change of status or OPT application, your status may need to be verified by using the USCIS case number instead of your SEVIS ID.
- If you are on OPT and have a pending H1B petition, be sure to bring your cap gap I-20 with you, along with the I-797C receipt notice from USCIS.
- If SSA refers you to the UT International Office to discuss your status, collect as much information as possible, then make an appointment to meet with an international advisor. Ask the agency for details about the issue and take notes so an advisor in the International Office can best assist you:
- Is secondary verification in SAVE in progress?
- What is your SAVE verification case number?
- What documents were reviewed in the visit?
- What error message was received?
- Which system or database was used?
- If SAVE verification is not the issue, what other factors are making you ineligible for the benefit?
- You can monitor the progress of your secondary verification on the SAVE verification website. Be sure to ask SSA when you can return for services after your case has been resolved. Although your case may be resolved in SAVE, the information may take additional time to sync with agency databases.
Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN)
If you do not currently have a Social Security Number (SSN) and are not currently eligible for an SSN (i.e. you do not have employment), you will need to apply for an ITIN in order to facilitate payment for scholarships and/or to file your U.S. tax return. If you are from a country that allows you to claim dependents (Canada, Mexico, South Korea or India) or you are a resident alien for tax purposes and your dependent does not currently have an SSN and is not eligible for an SSN, then your dependent will also need to apply for an ITIN to be claimed on your tax return.
To Apply for an ITIN via ISSS:
- Schedule an appointment to meet with the tax advisor.
- Bring the following documents to your appointment
- Your most recent U.S. entry Visa
- I-20 (F-1 visa holders)/DS-2019 (J-1 visa holders)
Note: If the ITIN application is to claim a dependent, your dependent(s) must be present during the appointment if they are able to sign documents for themselves. ITIN applications can only be facilitated for F, J, or M visa holders.
IRS VITA (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) site that offers free tax assistance to nonresident aliens who need help to prepare their own tax return.The International Office at UT Austin is an
Our tax advising is focused on providing assistance in understanding filing instructions, how to navigate GLACIER Tax Prep, and general questions regarding nonresident taxes. Any specific tax situations that cannot be addressed by our volunteers will need to be discussed with a licensed professional tax advisor.
All volunteers have completed training through the IRS VITA program and as such are protected from liability under the Volunteer Protection Act. The taxpayer is ultimately responsible for the information on their tax returns.