A Social Security number (SSN) is a nine-digit number issued to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and certain nonresidents by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
The primary purpose of the Social Security Number (SSN) is to track individuals for taxation purposes. It is not intended to be used for identification purposes and cannot be used as work authorization.
Per current legislation, SSNs can only be issued to someone who meets either of the following criteria:
- Is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States
- Has a valid job offer and is eligible for legal employment.
The SSN is required for all individuals who are employed in the United States.
The SSN is valid for life, so you only need to apply once. Even if you change employers or leave the U.S., this number remains your number. If you lose your SSN Card and need to apply for a replacement card, you must prove that you were employed in the United States at the time of your application.
You do not need an SSN to register for classes at Middlebury, to get a driver’s license, to open a bank account, to obtain a cell phone, or to rent a place to live.
Your SSN is sensitive personal information, so it is imperative that you protect your number and the card as you would your passport or other important personal document. To learn more and education yourself about common scams and fraud, please visit this SSA site.
Find more information about the SSN at the Social Security Administration (SSA).
- F-1 Students are eligible to obtain a SSN if they are in valid F-1 status and have been offered an on-campus job, or they have been authorized for off-campus employment (Curricular or Optional Practical Training).
- F-2 Dependents are not eligible to obtain a SSN because they cannot be employed.
- J-1 Students are eligible to obtain a SSN if they are in valid J-1 status.
- J-1 Visiting Scholars are eligible to obtain a SSN if they are in valid J-1 status.
- J-2 Dependents are eligible to obtain a SSN if they have received J-2 work authorization from USCIS.
- H-1B Temporary Workers are eligible to obtain a SSN if they are in valid H-1B status.
Applying for a Social Security Number (SSN)
There are specific guidelines and procedures that international students and scholars must follow when applying for a Social Security number from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Read below for more information on how the application process works.
To apply for your SSN, you will need the following documents:
Please note, it is recommended that you first obtain all of your supporting documentation prior to filling out the hard copy or online SSN application forms.
- Completed initial online application: https://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/start.html
- You must go to the SSA office within 45 days of completing the online application and you will still be required to bring the original, hard copy supplemental documents listed below with you to the SSA office
- Completed/printed hard copy of SSN application (Form SS-5): https://www.ssa.gov/forms/
- Valid passport
- Original SEVIS I-20 document (for F-1) or DS-2019 (for J-1)
- A valid I-94 card: this can be retrieved at www.cbp.gov/i94
- Proof of employment eligibility- see below “Process for Obtaining Proof of Employment Eligibility” for details
- Proof of employment may include the following: job offer letter/verification of employment (VOE), supplemental letter from ISSS, I-20 endorsed for CPT, or EAD card from USCIS.
- Please note if you are applying for an SSN based on CPT or OPT employment, you do not need a supplemental letter from ISSS.
- More information about this can be found here: https://www.ssa.gov/pubs/EN-05-10181.pdf)
To minimize any delays, bring originals of all documents. The SSA does not accept any photocopies of documents. A Social Security number and card will typically be issued within two weeks of receiving certification from the Department of Homeland Security. You can apply for a Social Security number no more than 14 days prior to the start of your employment.
It is important that you are prepared to follow any COVID-19 safety protocols that may be set by the SSA Office; you are expected to review the protocols before your appointment (https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/).
Process for Obtaining Proof of Employment Eligibility
Before applying for a SSN, new students/scholars must complete check-in with ISSS and have their SEVIS records activated. Also, anyone who entered the U.S. through a land border must be present in the U.S. for at least 10 business days before applying.
Procedure for obtaining documents and appointments with the Social Security Administration
For Current F1/J1 Students:
- If you are a student, you must receive a confirmation email via Workable once you are hired. This will provide you with important instructions from the Human Resources office.
- Middlebury Institute students must complete your paperwork with Human Resources.
- Request the Verification of Employment (VOE) letter from Human Resources by emailing a request to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Submit the VOE to ISSS via email (email@example.com) with a request for a supplemental letter from ISSS. This supplemental letter is required for your SSN application.
- ISSS will respond via email within 5-7 business days with your letters and important follow-up information for filling out the Social Security Number Application. We cannot accommodate same-day or urgent requests, so please take this step prior to making any necessary transportation needs and prior to filling out the online or hard copy SSN application forms.
- Once you receive the supplemental letter from ISSS and have all necessary documents (see above “getting a social security number”), then you will arrange to go to the Social Security Administration office.
- For Middlebury College, refer to Burlington Social Security Administration.
- For Middlebury Institute, refer to Salinas Social Security Administration.
- For any other offices, visit the SSA office locator.
For Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
- Complete the CPT application process
- After the CPT Request has been processed, an I-20 with CPT approval will be issued and you will receive an email stating it is ready to pick up.
- You can apply for an SSN up to 30 days before your work start date.
- You do not need a supplemental letter from ISSS
For Optional Practical Training (OPT)
- Apply for OPT through USCIS.
- Receive your work authorization card (EAD).
- You must have your EAD card the first day of your work authorization period.
- You do not need a supplemental letter from ISSS
For international employees of Middlebury
- You do not need to bring any supplemental information from ISSS, please make sure you have all of the listed above in “Applying for a Social Security Number” including your contract or hire letter issued from Middlebury.
Obtain proof of SSN eligibility
- F-1 and J-1 Students with On-Campus Employment
- This is done by obtaining your Verification of Employment (VOE) from Human Resources after being officially hired. You will also need the supplemental letter provided by ISSS (see step 1 above). Please allow 5 business days for ISSS to provide you with this documentation.
- F-1 Students with Curricular or Optional Practical Training (CPT or OPT)
- Present proof of your employment authorization (CPT letter or EAD for OPT) and your current Form I-20. You do not need a supplemental letter from ISSS.
- J-1 Students with Academic Training
- Present the Academic Training authorization letter issued by ISSS with your current Form DS-2019.
- You cannot apply for the SSN until the Academic Training start date indicated on your Form DS-2019.
- J-1 Visiting Scholars
- Present your contract letter as proof of your employment authorization and your current Form DS-2019.
- J-2 Dependents with Work Authorization
- Present your USCIS employment authorization document (EAD), your current Form DS-2019, and your J-1’s current Form DS-2019.
- H-1B Temporary Workers
- Present your contract letter as proof of your employment authorization and your Form I-797 Approval Notice.
Social Security Administration (SSA) Locations and Getting There
TEMPORARY CLOSURE OF BURLINGTON, VERMONT OFFICE - for those needing appointments in Vermont, you may temporarily contact the Rutland, Vermont SSA Office at (800) 772-1213. Physical address: 246 West St, Rutland, VT 05701
While you may apply at any SSA location in the U.S., the only location in Vermont accepting SSN appointments for Middlebury College international students is the office in Burlington, Vermont. See above for temporary arrangements due to Burlington, VT office closure.
The closest office for Middlebury Institute students in Monterey is in Salinas, CA. Both Burlington, Vermont and Salinas, California locations are accessible by public transportation.
58 Pearl Street
Burlington, Vermont 05401
More information for Vermont can be found on the Tri-Valley Transit website: https://www.trivalleytransit.org/
There are several transportation options to assist you in getting to and from your appointment in Burlington, Vermont. Tri-Valley Transit (TVT) and private taxis are common choices. For additional transportation options, please visit the Addison County Chamber of Commerce website: https://www.addisoncounty.com/getting-here.
928 E. Blanco Rd., Suite 155
Salinas, California 93901
More information for California can be found on the Monterey-Salinas Transit website: https://mst.org/
Bus Tips: The bus drivers are generally helpful and friendly – please ask them where you should get off to get to the SSA location if you are unsure, and where you need to be to catch the bus back to Middlebury College or Middlebury Institute.
Additional Local Vermont Social Security Administration Offices
88 Merchants Row
Rutland, Vermont 05701 (28.3 miles)
1 Home Farm Way
Montpelier, Vermont 05602 (35.5 miles)
Updated on 01/10/2023