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International Student and Scholar Support

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Social Security

Nonimmigrant students qualify for a social security number if you have an on-campus job, CPT authorization, or OPT authorization. If you do not qualify for a social security number but need it for other reasons such as for a driver's license application, continue reading below.

Applying for a Social Security Number If You Have a Job

In order to apply for a SSN, you will need to take the following steps:

  1. Start the social security application process online at
    1. Find the section titled "Mange Benefits and information"
    2. Under the heading "number and card," you should select "request number for the first time." You can also use this link
    3. Click "Get started."
    4. Answer the questions as asked. You should answer "no" to the question "Is the card for a U.S. citizen?" 
    5. When you reach the page that says "You can start your Social Security number (SSN) card application online. Once you've submitted your request, visit your local SSA office for additional guidance for completing your application. You will need to give us some of the information you provided again," click Continue
    6. Complete the online process and print out or save a copy of the form you get at the end with a case number.
  2. After you complete the online process, visit the Columbia, SC Social Security Administration in person. To check their hours and other information, type in the zip code 29205 here. Note that they are busiest on Mondays and at the beginning of each month, so avoid those times if you can. In addition, you should visit their office before 2 p.m. if you wish to be seen that day.
    1. You should bring the form you received from your online application process, an SS-5 form with as much complete information as possible, and all of the documents listed for your category below. 
  3. After you complete the process at the Social Security Administration, your social security card will be mailed to you in 2 - 3 weeks. 
  • A completed Social Security Application 
  • An employment verification letter from USC STAMPED and SIGNED by an international student advisor. (This letter is obtained from your hiring department, but must be stamped by ISS.)
  • If you are a J-1 Student with a DS-2019 from an organization other than USC: A letter from your sponsor
  • Passport
  • Visa
  • I-94
  • I-20 or DS-2019
  • A completed Social Security Application
  • Passport
  • Visa
  • I-94
  • I-20 with OPT information (obtained by meeting with international student advisor)
  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD Card)

Applying for a Driver's License Without a Social Security Number

You will need to obtain a rejection letter from the Social Security Administration. To obtain a social security rejection letter, you should not visit the Social Security Administration Office. Instead, follow the instructions below: 

  1.  Complete the SS-5 social security number application (yes, you must do this to get a rejection letter)
  2. Write a letter explaining that you know you are not eligible for a social security number, but that you are requesting a rejection letter to provide to the DMV. A template letter can be found here.
  3. Get this letter stamped by a DSO at the International Student Services Office. You can email a copy to or come by the ISS Office.
  4. Mail the SS-5 application and the letter to:

U.S. Social Security Administration, 1835 Assembly Street, 11th Floor, Columbia, SC 29201

You do not need to physically visit the Social Security Administration to obtain this letter. There is a turnaround time of 2 weeks to receive a rejection letter. If you do not receive a letter within 2 weeks, please call 866-964-7594. 

Note that you do not need to send original documents to request this letter. If you get a letter from the SSA asking you to submit original documents to obtain a rejection letter, ISS recommends that you visit the Social Security Administration instead.

Filing Taxes and Other Issues That May Arise Without a Social Security Number

When it comes time to file taxes, you will apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and will file a Form 8843 if you did not earn any income. ISS will send details about this in approximately late Februrary of each year.

Apartments, banks, and other institutions sometimes ask for your social security number. Explain that you do not have a social security number because you are an international student and see if they can use other identification instead.

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