Your Social Security Card

Social Security numbers are generally assigned to people who are authorized to work in the United States. They are used to report your wages to the government and when filing your tax return. Also, when opening up a new bank account, most banks require either a Social Security number or proof of application for a Social Security number.

Important Information About Social Security

  • 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.
  • 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 after you’ve arrived in the U.S.; you will not be able to get a Social Security number until your SEVIS record is activated.
  • We recommend waiting at least 5 business 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 pamphlet for more information regarding your Social Security Number.

Applying for Social Security

To apply for a Social Security Number (SSN), you will need to begin the application online, and then visit a Social Security Administration Office in person to complete your application. 

Review the instructional video above and follow the steps below to submit your application.  

  1. We recommend waiting at least 5 days after your SEVIS record has been activated before applying for an SSN to allow your information time to make it into the Social Security database.


  2. Visit the Social Security Number and Card webpage and answer the questions.
    • Please refer to the following tips as you complete your application:
      • Use your host employer’s address as your mailing address, especially if you have not yet arranged permanent housing.
      • For the question regarding the documentation you will provide, you should select Foreign Passport, I-94 with Unexpired Foreign Passport, DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility, and Other.
      • Be sure to print and save the online control number page once you complete the online application.
  3. After you submit your online request, you must visit your local SSA office with your documentation within 45 calendar days. Use the Social Security Office Locator to find the closest office. 
    • Call or check the office’s website in advance to see whether you will need an appointment. Most offices do not require that you make an appointment, but calling to schedule an appointment in advance may help you to avoid long wait times. Be sure to also visit this page to ensure that your office is not temporarily closed or providing service by advance appointment only. Otherwise, most Social Security offices are open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. – 4:30 p.m. and tend to be busiest around lunch time. Try to avoid going during this time, if possible. People without an appointment should expect long lines, especially during the busiest times: Mondays, the morning after a Federal holiday, and the first week of the month.
  4. When applying for a Social Security Number, please bring the following items with you: 
  5. When you apply for your Social Security Number, you will receive a receipt letter. Make a copy of it for your personal records, and give the original receipt to your host employer. The receipt is proof that you have applied for a Social Security number and will allow you to begin to be paid by your host employer, even before you receive your number. 

After you apply, it may take up to 6 weeks for your Social Security Card to arrive in the mail. You are allowed to intern or train and be paid while you are waiting for your card. If your host employer has any questions or concerns about paying you before your number arrives, please refer them to our Host Employer Resources or to InterExchange at 1.800.621.1202. 

Sample Social Security Card
Sample 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 to check your status, be sure to 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

IRS Contact

Social Security Contact

Employer Responsibilities When Hiring Foreign Workers

International Students And Social Security Numbers

Frequently Asked Questions

How long will it take to receive my card?

Your card should arrive in the mail within six weeks of your application date. It is important that your mailing address on Form SS-5 is accurate to ensure that your card gets delivered to you. If you change your mailing address after you submit your application to the Social Security office, it is your responsibility to inform the Social Security Administration of this change by calling or visiting any Social Security office.

If I am a returning J-1 and have already been issued a Social Security number, do I need to reapply?

No, you do not need to apply for a new number. If you do not remember your number or have lost your card, you will need to apply for a replacement by visiting your local Social Security office, which can be found by visiting:

What if the Social Security Administration won’t accept my documents?

The Social Security Administration will not accept a student’s application and documents if you have not yet registered your housing address in SEVIS. We recommend going to the Social Security office at least five days after initially registering your housing address in SEVIS. The Social Security Administration recommends waiting at least 10 days after arriving in the United States before applying. If they do not accept your application, take detailed notes of what the Social Security officer says and report this information to InterExchange by calling 1.800.621.1202.

What if my Social Security card never arrives?

If you put your employer’s address on the Social Security application Form SS-5, check with them to ensure that they have not received your card. The Social Security Administration can be contacted at: 1.800.772.1213. An update on the application status will usually be given over the phone. In the event that there is an issue with the application, take detailed notes and call InterExchange to help resolve the issue. You can also reapply in person at your local Social Security office, which can be found at: