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Social Security Number

Update on Social Security Application Processing during the Pandemic

In order to obtain a Social Security Card, students and scholars need to call their local SSA office (locations and contact information listed below, based on your local US home address) and schedule an appointment. If you have trouble getting through on the phone, you can fax a copy of the completed SS5, passport bio-demo page, I-94, DS-2019 or I-20 forms to the fax numbers listed below. (For the Mountain View office, if the primary fax number is busy, you can fax to the secondary fax number). If you speak to an SSA person on the phone you will be given an appointment and a text message with the appointment information. If you fax, then SSA will NOT be calling you back, and you will get a text message only with the appointment information in around 5-7 business days. To reduce call volume, if you do get a text message, please do not call again to confirm. If you do not get a response after faxing, please do not call to ask for status until at least 7 business days have passed. It is very important that you provide a US phone number. SSA cannot text to a foreign cell phone. Also SSA still requires everyone to quarantine for 14 days after arrival to the US, therefore, they will make an appointment according to when you arrived in the US. SSA will not make any appointments for applicants outside of the US. You should have an appointment scheduled within a month of your call and your Social Security card should arrive in approximately two weeks after your appointment. If you need to reschedule your appointment, please call the SSA directly.

The Mountain View office serves: Mountain View, Palo Alto, Los Altos, Los Altos Hills, and Sunnyvale
701 N. Shoreline Blvd.
1st floor
Mountain View, CA 94043
Phone: 877-319-0161
Fax: 833-950-3371(primary)
Fax: 833-950-3370 (secondary)

The Redwood City office serves: East Palo Alto, Menlo Park, Redwood City. Anything north of Redwood city on the peninsula belongs to San Mateo office, and there are three offices in SF that serves SF and Daly City
SOCIAL SECURITY
601 ALLERTON ST
2ND FLOOR
REDWOOD CITY, CA 94063
Phone: 888-860-5582
Fax: 833-571-0638

The Fremont office serves: Fremont and Milpitas
3100 MOWRY AVE
SUITE 100
FREMONT, CA 94538
Phone: 888-632-7073

Fax: 833-950-3665

The Downtown San Jose office serves: Cupertino, Campbell, Los Gatos, Downtown SJ, Santa Clara
280 S FIRST ST
ROOM 244
SAN JOSE, CA 95113
Phone: 866-331-2235
Fax: 833-902-2630

What is a Social Security number (SSN)?

  • A Social Security number (SSN) is used by employers and employees for the purpose of reporting individual employee earnings for tax purposes only.
  • The SSN is valid for life, so you only need to apply once.

Who is eligible for a Social Security number (SSN)?

  • F-1 students who have on-campus employment, or are receiving fellowships which requires employment or RA/TAships, or working off-campus on OPT or CPT
  • J-1 students, who have a letter of permission to work from their sponsor. This could be Stanford or an outside organization, i.e. Fulbright.
  • If you are a new F-1 or J-1 student wait 30 days after the I-20/DS-2019 program start date before applying for an SSN.  
  • All J-1 Scholars
  • J-2 spouses with work permission (EAD card)
  • Employees in H-1B, TN or O-1 status

If you are not eligible for a social security number, you may apply for an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number).

Please go in person to apply for your Social Security number. Though the SSN application allows for mailing, we do not recommend it as you would need to mail in your original passport.

Location of Social Security offices

Mountain View:

701 N. Shoreline Blvd. Ist floor, Mountain View, CA 94043
Phone: 1-800-772-1213

Redwood City:

601 Allerton Street, Second floor, Redwood City, CA 94063
Phone: 1-800-772-1213

Find more information and office hours.

F-1 Students

Required documents:

  1. A completed Form SS-5: Application for a Social Security Card
  2. Passport, copy of current electronic I-94 arrival record, and current I-20
  3. Evidence of SSN eligibility:
    1. EAD card ( if on OPT)
    2. I-20 showing unexpired CPT or OPT endorsement for off campus employment
    3. For on campus employment, 2 letters are needed:
      1. A letter from the on-campus employer addressed to the Social Security Administration
        A sample letter is available here (pdf).
        OR PhD students with a fellowship must have a letter from their department indicating employment stipulations.
      2. A letter from Bechtel confirming your status. You must upload your employment or PhD fellowship letter as part of the request.
        * If you are a new F-1 student wait 30 days after the I-20 program start date before requesting a letter from Bechtel.

J-1 Students

Required documents:

  1. A completed Form SS-5: Application for a Social Security number.
  2. Passport, copy of current electronic I-94 arrival record, and current DS-2019
  3. Evidence of SSN eligibility:
    ​1. For off-campus employment, current DS-2019 showing unexpired Academic Training endorsement AND job offer letter from the off-campus employer.
    2. For on campus employment*, 2 letters are needed:
    1. A letter from the on-campus employer addressed to the Social Security Administration
      A sample letter is available here (pdf).
      OR PhD students with a fellowship must have a letter from their department indicating employment stipulations.
    2. A letter from Bechtel confirming your status. You must upload your employment or PhD fellowship letter as part of the request.
      ** If you are a new J-1 student wait 30 days after the I-20 program start date before requesting a letter from Bechtel.

*J-1 On-Campus Employment Authorization
Obtain employment authorization from your J-1 visa sponsor (DS-2019 issuing entity). Stanford-sponsored J-1 students can request J-1 On-Campus employment authorization from Bechtel Connect. NOTE: You must receive this on-campus employment authorization from Bechtel BEFORE you start to work AND BEFORE you apply for the letter from Bechtel.

J-1 Scholars including Visiting Student Researchers and Postdocs

You should not apply earlier than 16 days after your SEVIS record has been validated. Your SEVIS record can only be validated after you have arrived in the U.S. and after you have submitted your Arrival Confirmation webform.

Those holding a J-1 visa in the "research scholar" or "short term scholar" categories are eligible for an SSN and do not require a letter from the International Center to make their application. We strongly recommend that you apply for an SSN even if you do not expect any payment that may require one. If your fees are being paid by Stanford, you will need an SSN to file taxes. There have been numerous instances where J-1 scholars discover they require an SSN to file tax forms after the completion of their program. Unfortunately at that point, they are no longer eligible for an SSN nor does there seem to be an alternative. 

Required documents:

  1. A completed Form SS-5: Application for a Social Security number.
  2. Passport, copy of current electronic I-94 arrival record, and current DS-2019

J-2 Dependents

Required Documents:

  1. A completed Form SS-5: Application for a Social Security number.
  2. Immigration documents: valid passport, electronic I-94 arrival record, and your DS-2019
  3. Employment Authorization Card