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Getting a Social Security Number

The Social Security Administration (SSA) assigns nine-digit Social Security numbers (SSN) to US citizens, permanent residents and eligible nonimmigrant workers in the United States. The SSN is issued to track earnings over a worker’s lifetime. Students holding F-1 and J-1 status who are employed in the US must apply for a SSN. Dependents in F-2 status are not eligible for a SSN.  

In order to issue a SSN, the SSA requires evidence that you are eligible to work in the US, that you are a full-time student, and that you have received a formal offer of on-campus employment, or have been authorized for off-campus employment through Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Optional Practical Training (OPT), or Academic Training. A SSN is not required to obtain a driver’s license, cell phone, credit card, insurance, admission to an academic institution or for other “non-work” reasons. The SSA must also verify your immigration documents and status before issuing you a SSN.

To apply for your SSN, you must bring the following documents to the Social Security Office, depending on the type of work you will be authorized for: 

If you are working on-campus:

  • Passport with F-1 or J-1 visa
  • I-20 or DS-2019
  • I-94 (access and print your I-94 here)
  • Application for Social Security Card
  • Letter from Employer (see template here)
  • Letter from Immigration Advisor:
    • Undergraduates: Cranwell International Center
    • Graduates: International Graduate Student Services
    • J-1 Students: Sponsor

If you are an F-1 student authorized for Curricular Practical Training (CPT):

If you are an F-1 student authorized for Optional Practical Training (OPT):

*Students applying for OPT may also request a SSN through the Form I-765 they submit to USCIS during their application process. 

If you are a J-1 student authorized for Academic Training:

  • Write your name exactly as it appears on your passport, visa, and other documents. Check to see if your family name and given name are in the correct place on the application. 
  • Your Social Security Card will not be delivered if your mailbox does not have your name on it. If your mailbox is not labeled with your name, you may label it yourself by taping a piece of paper on the inside of the mailbox. 


612 South Jefferson Street, Suite 100

Roanoke, VA, 24011

Hours of Operation:

Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday: 9:00 AM to 4:00 PM

Wednesday: 9:00 AM to 12:00 noon

For the most up-to-date hours, please visit their website.

PLEASE NOTE: There is limited free parking directly next to the Social Security Office. There is a parking garage located directly across from the office and a parking lot at the corner of Jefferson Street and Elm Avenue.

No car? You can take the Smart Way Bus to the Social Security Office; the bus picks up at the Squires Student Center (Stop #9) and drops off at Campbell Court (Stop #2) in Dowtown Roanoke, a few blocks away from the office. See map below for more details about getting from Campbell Court to the office:

What does it cost?

There is no charge for a SSN or card.

How long does it take to get a SSN?

The SSA will mail your number and card as soon as all of your immigration information has been verified. It can take 2-4 weeks or more.

What if my card is lost or stolen?

You can replace your card for free if it is lost or stolen. However, you are limited to three replacement cards in a year and 10 during your lifetime. Legal name changes and other exceptions do not count toward these limits. For example, changes in nonimmigrant status that require card updates may not count toward these limits.

To request a replacement card, you will take the same documentation as before to the SSA office. Your replacement card will have the same name and number as your previous card.

What if my immigration status or citizenship changes?

If your immigration status changes or you become a legal permanent resident (LPR), you should inform the SSA office so that your records can be updated. You will need to present documents that prove your new status.

Are my earnings taxable for Social Security purposes?

As a student in F-1 or J-1 status, your earnings from authorized employment are generally not taxable for social securitdent aliens. If you have any questions about this, please reach out to Janet Kunz, International Tax Specialist, at

Can I start working before I receive a Social Security card?

As long as you have work authorization, you can start to work while your SSN application is still processing. You should ensure your employer follows the correct instructions for allowing you to begin work without the SSN.