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.
Getting a Social Security Number
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. Read below for more information on how the application process works.
To apply for your SSN, you will need the following documents:
- Completed/printed SSN application (Form SS-5): http://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/ss5.htm
- 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 (job offer letter, letter of support from ISSS, and I-20 endorsed for CPT or EAD card from USCIS)
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 30 days prior to the start of your employment.
It is important that you are prepared to follow the COVID-19 safety protocols set by the SSA Office; you are expected to review the protocols before your appointment (https://www.ssa.gov/coronavirus/).
Process for Middlebury College students and international faculty and staff
IMPORTANT UPDATE: Beginning Monday, April 11, 2022, the following procedures will take effect.
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
- If you are a student, submit your Employment Verification Letter from the Student Employment Office (you must request this from them) to firstname.lastname@example.org and request a supplemental letter from ISSS. ISSS will respond via email within 5 business days with your letters and important follow up information for filling out the Social Security Number Application. We often cannot accommodate same-day requests, so please do this step prior to making any necessary transportation needs.
- 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 Burlington Social Security Administration office.
- Walk-in appointments only beginning April 11, 2022; you do not call to schedule an appointment any longer. This is a change from the COVID-19 protocols.
- For anyone not in Vermont, visit the office locator https://secure.ssa.gov/ICON/main.jsp.
Obtain proof of SSN eligibility
- F-1 and J-1 Students with On-Campus Employment
- This is done by obtaining your Employment Letter from the Student Employment Office. 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.
- 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.
Transportation for Middlebury College students and international faculty and staff
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 and Shuttles” (scroll to bottom of Transportation Options page) are common choices.
Process for Middlebury Institute students in Monterey
For on-campus work-study positions:
- Complete your paperwork with Human Resources.
- Obtain the SSN packet from Human Resources.
- The SSN packet contains three forms that need to be completed: letter request (completed by you), job offer (completed by the on-campus supervisor), and SS-5 (completed by you).
- Once the letter request and job offer letter are completed, bring these to the Office of Student Services, and a support letter will be generated.
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.
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.
Local Social Security Administration Offices
928 E. Blanco Rd., Suite 155
Salinas, CA 93901
(800) 772-1213 or (877) 600-2857
88 Merchants Row
Rutland, Vermont 05701 (28.3 miles)
58 Pearl Street
Burlington, Vermont 05401 (33.8 miles)
1 Home Farm Way
Montpelier, Vermont 05602 (35.5 miles)
Updated on 4/06/2022