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Social Security Number

What is a Social Security Number?

Social Security Numbers (SSNs) are used to report a person’s wages to the U.S. government and to determine a person’s eligibility for Social Security and other government services. For more information, see the Social Security Administration’s (SSA) publication, Social Security Numbers for Noncitizens.

Who is eligible for a Social Security Number?

SSA issues SSNs to people lawfully admitted to the U.S. on a temporary basis who have authorization to work by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). In general, international students and scholars must have an authorized, paying job to be eligible for an SSN.

How do I obtain a Social Security Number?

In order to obtain an SSN you must submit an application to a Social Security Administration (SSA) office. The contents of your application will depend on your specific immigration status, as described below.

International students, scholars, and employees working at UIC should consult with your department administrator or Human Resources contact for additional guidance before starting this process.

When should I go to the SSA office?

OIS strongly recommends that you wait at minimum one business day from the date you arrive to the U.S. to apply for your SSN. SSA must verify your immigration status in order to accept your application and it takes one business day for federal databases to communicate information about your arrival and status to SSA. Applying early may result in significant delay of receiving your SSN.

Where is the SSA office?

While you may visit any SSA office location, the offices nearest UIC campuses are familiar with processing the applications of UIC students, scholars, and staff.

  • SSA nearest UIC’s Chicago Campus

605 West Washington Boulevard

Chicago, IL 60661



  • SSA nearest UIC’s Peoria Campus

815 West Pioneer Parkway

Peoria, IL 61615



  • SSA nearest UIC’s Rockford Campus

502 East Jefferson Street

Rockford, IL 61107



What should I bring to the SSA office?

  1. Passport
  2. I-94 record
  3. Address where your card can be successfully delivered to you 2-6 weeks from your application date
  4. Additional documentation
    1. F-1 sponsored by UIC and working on-campus  – Form I-20 and Completed Social Security Support Letter for F-1 International Students.
    2. F-1 status on CPT – Form I-20 with current CPT authorization and employer’s job offer letter.
    3. F-1 status on OPT – Form I-20, USCIS issued EAD, and employer’s job offer letter.
    4. J-1 Exchange Visitor sponsored by UIC (student or scholar) – Form DS-2019 and completed Social Security Support Letter for J Exchange Visitor.
    5. J-1 Exchange Visitor sponsored by a third party – Form DS-2019 and additional support documentation as advised by program sponsor (e.g. IIE Fulbright).
    6. J-2 status – Form DS-2019, USCIS issued EAD, and employer’s job offer letter.
    7. H-1B, TN, or O-1 status – Form I-797.
    8. Pending Permanent Residency – USCIS issued EAD.

What happens after I submit my application?

Once you apply, SSA will process your application and, if approved, mail you a card containing your unique and permanent Social Security Number (SSN). It can take 2-6 weeks from the date of application for the card to arrive by mail. After you receive your card, please submit a copy directly to your employer.

Most likely you will receive a Social Security card that has the notation, “VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION.” SSA issues this type of card to people lawfully admitted to the United States on a temporary basis who have authorization to work by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS).

How should I handle my Social Security Number?

Your Social Security Number (SSN) is sensitive, personal identification information. In general, you should not carry your Social Security card in your wallet on a daily basis. It may help to memorize your number and only carry the card when you know it will be needed for a specific purpose. Common scenarios in which your SSN will be requested are:

                     When an employer is setting up payroll and tax paperwork at a new job.

                     When setting up a new bank account, opening a credit card, or applying for a loan.

                     When a business needs to check your credit in order to apply for an apartment, sign up for utilities, or get a contract-based mobile phone plan.

However, since SSNs are commonly used in identity theft scams, it’s a good idea to ask questions before deciding to share your number in-person, on a form, or online. For example if someone wants you to share your or your child’s SSN, you can ask:

                     Why do they need your SSN?

                     How will your SSN be used?

                     How will protect your SSN and other personal information?

                     What happens if you don’t share your SSN?

                     Is there other identifying information you can provide in place of the SSN?

If you don’t feel comfortable with the answers to these questions, or you are being asked to share your SSN over public Wi-Fi to a non-encrypted website, it may be best to protect your SSN and not share it.

Information adapted from the Federal Trade Commission’s site, How to Keep your Personal Information Secure.

Do I need a Social Security Number to open a bank account?

U.S. financial institutions are required to verify the identity of every individual who opens a bank account. In compliance with federal regulations, all banks operating in the U.S. have established Customer Identification Programs (CIP) that they are to follow for anyone who seeks to open an account. While the specifics of the CIP may vary from one bank to another, Department of Treasury regulations found at 31 CFR § 103.121 set forth the following minimal information that the banks must obtain from you before allowing you to open an account:

  1. Your name
  2. Your date of birth
  3. Your street address – no P.O. Box
  4. An identification number

The regulations 31 CFR § 103.121(b)(i)A)(4)(ii) clarify that for a non-U.S. person the identification number shall be one or more of the following:

  • taxpayer identification number (ITIN)
  • passport number and country of issuance
  • alien identification card number
  • number and country of issuance of any other government-issued document evidencing nationality or residence and bearing a photograph or similar safeguard

It is important to remember that banks establish their own customer identification programs and may ask for additional documentation than is described above because they are ultimately responsible for establishing the identity of their customers.

Can I apply for an Illinois Driver’s License without a Social Security Number?

A Social Security Number is not required to obtain a State of Illinois Driver’s License. Internationals (F-1, F-2, J-1, J-2, among others) in Illinois may obtain a Temporary Visitor Driver’s License (TVDL) from various locations in the state. To apply, you will need to visit the Social Security Administration to request a letter stating that you are not eligible for an SSN, this is known as a Form L-676. If, however, you are eligible for a SSN, then you must apply for and receive the SSN before applying for a state driver’s license.

For more information, visit the Social Security Administration web site: