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International Student Services

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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

Due to COVID, you will need to call the Social Security Administration to make an appointment prior to visiting their office. The Columbia, SC office phone number is 1-866-964-7594. ISS recommends calling them first thing in the morning (around 8 - 8:30 a.m.) to try to connect with someone.

The Social Security Administration website states that their office is closed to the public. However, nonimmigrant students are still required to go in person to apply for a social security number. 

In order to apply for a SSN, you will need to visit the Social Security Administration with the documents that pertain to your situation, listed below:

  • A completed Social Security Application 
  • An employment offer 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:

  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 call them at 866-964-7594 to make an in-person appointment 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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