Social Security

You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy your host city while on your program!
You’ll have plenty of time to enjoy your host city while on your program!
Photo courtesy of InterExchange

Social Security numbers are used to report your earnings to the U.S. government. Your Social Security number is unique to you and will never expire. Should you enter the U.S. on a future work or study program, your Social Security number would remain valid, so please keep your number and card in a safe place.

Important Information about Social Security

  • Protect your personal ID and confidential information. Your Social Security number is yours alone. Do not allow others to use your number. Record your number in a safe place in case your card is lost or stolen. Protect both your card and your number to prevent misuse.
  • If you are not receiving any payment from your host employer, you are not required to have a Social Security number. However, it is still recommended that you apply for a number, as you may need it for opening a bank account, renting an apartment, or applying for a U.S. driver’s license.
  • To avoid delays in obtaining a Social Security number, please remember to contact InterExchange Career Training USA to activate your SEVIS record; you will not be able to get a Social Security number until your SEVIS record is activated.
  • We recommend waiting five to ten days after SEVIS activation before applying for your Social Security Number, as it sometimes takes a few days for SEVIS information to be updated in the Social Security Administration’s database.

Please review the Foreign Workers and Social Security Numbers for more information regarding your Social Security Number.

Applying for Social Security

To apply for a first-time Social Security card, you will need to apply in person at a local Social Security office. Use the Social Security Office Locator, to find the closest office. Most Social Security offices are only open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. - 4:30 p.m. and are busiest between the hours of 11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m. Try to avoid going during this time, if possible.

Read our blog post about Four Common Mistakes When Applying for Your Social Security Number to avoid making the same mistakes.

When applying for a Social Security number, please bring the following items with you:

  • Your passport, including your J-1 Visa
  • Your DS-2019 Form
  • Your I-94 Arrival/Departure printout or card: Access your electronic I-94 here.
  • Your ‘Dear Social Security Officer’ letter, included in your acceptance package from InterExchange

Important: When you apply for your Social Security Number (SSN) you will get a receipt letter. Make a copy of it for your personal records. Give the original receipt letter to your employer when you arrive. The receipt is proof that you have applied for a Social Security number.

After you apply, it will take 4 to 6 weeks for your Social Security Card to arrive. You are allowed to intern or train and be paid while you are waiting for your card. If your employer has questions about paying you because your card hasn’t arrived, ask him or her to call InterExchange at 1.800.621.1202.

Remember! Read all instructions before you fill out the application. Here are some tips:

  • Use your employer’s address as your mailing address, especially if you have not yet arranged permanent housing.
  • For question #5 regarding Citizenship, check the box labeled “Legal Alien Allowed To Work.”
  • For questions #9b and #10b, you can leave the questions regarding your mother and father’s social security numbers blank.
Social Security Application Social Security Card

Checking your Application Status

After you apply for your Social Security number, we recommend checking on your application status after seven to ten days by calling the Social Security office. If you return to the office at which you applied, take all of your original documents as well as the receipt of application. Checking on your application status can minimize any delays or problems with your application. Your Social Security number may even be available to you prior to your card being mailed out. If you have any questions, please call the Social Security Administration’s toll-free number: 1.800.772.1213.

If you have any questions or lose your card, please call the Social Security Administration’s toll-free number: 1.800.772.1213 or visit their website.

IRS Contact


Social Security Contact


Employer Responsibilities When Hiring Foreign Workers

International Students And Social Security Numbers

Next: Tax Information »

U.S. Department of State-Designated J-1 Visa Sponsor
Alliance for International Exchange
Exclusive partner of the Erasmus Student Network for J-1 Visa sponsorship of internships in the U.S.
European-American Chamber of Commerce New York
Generation Study Abroad
Global Ties U.S.
International Au Pair Association
WYSE Travel Confederation