Social Security Number

A Social Security card shows your Social Security Number (SSN), which is required for anyone who works in the U.S., including F-1 students (non-immigrants). A Social Security card is not a work permit. The SSN is an identification number that you will keep for life.  You will need the number for many purposes in the U.S. including employment and paying taxes.  For more information, visit the Social Security Administration's website.

Most businesses do not need an SSN from you unless it is for credit purposes (loans, credit cards, cell phone companies, etc.) You do not need an SSN to open a bank account or to obtain a California Driver’s License at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). If you have an experience in which you are denied service for not having an SSN, you should politely ask to speak with a manager or director to clarify your situation and receive additional support.

A Social Security Number (SSN) is issued once per lifetime. If you have previously had a SSN, but do not have the card or do not remember the number, you can apply for a duplicate card if you meet the requirements below:

  • F-1 students with an on-campus job offer letter and/or work permission
  • J-1 students with an on-campus job offer and work permission from their DS-2019 sponsor
  • Not eligible for SSN: F-2 dependents
  • Not eligible for SSN: students in an English language program such as the American Language Institute (ALI) 

Students must be physically present in the U.S. to apply for an SSN. The Social Security Administration (SSA) must verify your legal entry into the U.S. before issuing an SSN. In order to apply, you must wait at least 10 business days after entering the US and complete the CSULB immigration check-in.

Do not begin employment until the following steps are completed:

  1. Complete SSN Support Letter Form [PDF] 
  2. Obtain an employment offer letter from your on-campus or CPT employer.
  3. Submit your completed SSN request to receive SSN certification letter.
    • F1 students:  Visit Request Documents or Signatures to find and submit forms.
    • J1 students: submit completed SSN Support letter form to their Exchange Advisor at CSULB.
  4. Once you receive SSN certification letter from ISS, bring the following items to a Social Security Administration Office (see list below of nearby offices):
    • Official job offer letter from employer
    • Certification letter from Office of International Students & Scholars (ISS) Social Security Number
    • SEVIS I-20 (for F-1 student) or DS-2019 (for J-1 student)
    • Most recent I-94 record (access here)
    • Valid passport

For students on OPT only - Please only bring the following items during the application procedure:

  • OPT I-20
  • Valid passport
  • Valid I-94
  • EAD

Below is a list of Social Security Administrative Offices located near CSULB. Please check the office’s hours of operation before arriving. You may find other locations online. 

Long Beach
2005 Long Beach Blvd
Long Beach, CA 90806

4957 Paramount Blvd
Lakewood, CA 90712

Garden Grove
11900 Gilbert St.
Garden Grove, CA 92841

For more information about Social Security Cards, please visit the Social Security Administration website. They also provide information in several languages.

You can contact the Social Security Administration via telephone at (800) 772-1213. They are typically open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m., Monday through Friday.

You may work while the Social Security number application is being processed. There is no law that requires employers to have their employees’ SSNs before hiring them. However, you must have employment authorization from your program sponsor or USCIS before you begin working.

If your employer has concerns regarding starting work while you are waiting for the SSN, this Employer Responsibilities When Hiring Foreign Workers webpage from the Social Security Administration is helpful to review.

International F-1 or J-1 students may also find this International Students and Social Security Numbers publication from the Social Security Administration helpful for employers to understand their SSN requirements.

Although an SSN is only meant to be used for tax and government purposes, financial institutions, businesses, and others often use it as a unique identification number. Because the SSN is a unique ID, it is often the target of “identity theft.” Therefore, you should be careful about where and to whom you give your SSN.

  • Never carry your Social Security card or number with you. Keep in a secure place.
  • Only give your SSN to someone who has a specific and legitimate need for it.
  • Never give your SSN to someone over the phone. You should initiate the call or meet in person.
  • Never reply to email or web sites that request an SSN.

Learn more about 10 Tips to Protect Personal Information