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Social Security Number

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.
  • 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).
      2. OR PhD students with a fellowship must have a letter from their department indicating employment stipulations.
      3. A letter from Bechtel confirming your status. We must see your employment or PhD fellowship letter to issue the Bechtel letter.

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. A letter from Bechtel confirming your student status
  4. A letter from your employer

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