Social Security Numbers

If you are receiving any compensation for your services from an employer in the US, including Emory, you will need to apply for an SSN. Learn more below.

If you are receiving funding from Emory University without providing services, you will need to apply for an ITIN. This includes students receiving non-service stipends as graduate students, students who will be receiving non-service scholarships, etc.  

What is a Social Security Number?

A social security number (SSN) is a 9-digit number assigned by the Social Security Administration to individuals who are authorized to work (provide services for various forms of compensation) in the United States. The SSN keeps a record of income for tax purposes. Even though a SSN is only required if you are employed, SSNs are also used to check one's financial credit history and as a form of identification.

You may be asked to provide your SSN when opening a bank account, signing a lease, applying for a credit card, purchasing a mobile phone plan, etc. If you are not employed in the US, and a cell phone carrier, bank, landlord, etc asks for your SSN, you should explain that you are not eligible for one. If you do not have a SSN, you will not have a financial credit history, and therefore you may be asked to pay a higher deposit for certain services.

If you are issued a SSN, only share it with those who have a legitimate reason for requesting it (an employer, utility provider, landlord, etc.) to avoid becoming a victim of identity left. Be sure to keep your Social Security card in a safe place. Do not carry it in your wallet. 

Required documents

  • Passport
  • Immigration document [I-20 (F-1s only), DS-2019 (J-1s only), I-797 (non-F/J visa holders)]
  • I-94
  • Completed SS-5 form

If you fall into one of the following categories, you should also bring:

F-1 students only

  • If you are applying for an SSN based on on-campus employment, you will also need to bring:

    1. An offer letter from your on-campus employer or service-fellowship provider (download a template). You can apply as early as 30 days before your employment start date. The letter must include the following to be accepted by SSA:

      -Date letter was created
      -Student's full legal name (as listed in passport)
      -Name of Emory hiring department
      -Position Title
      -Work location (the full street address including city, state and zip code where you will work)
      -Start date (must be within 30 days from your SSN application date)
      -End date (cannot be beyond your I-20 end date)
      -Wage information (hourly pay or monthly/semesterly stipend)
      -Work hours per week (Note: if the employment will take place when class is in session, the number of hours per week cannot exceed 20 hours per week).  
      -Hiring manager's original signature (no electronic signatures will be accepted).

    2. A support letter from ISSS. Request the letter by completing the Social Security Letter Request e-form found under the F-1 Student Services in ISSS Link >>
  • If you are applying for an SSN based on Curricular Practical Training, you will also need to bring your original SEVIS I-20 annotated for CPT on page 2. You can apply as early as 30 days before your CPT start date listed on your I-20.

  • If you are applying for an SSN based on approval for Optional Practical Training, employment with an international organization, or employment for severe economic hardship, you will also need to bring your employment authorization document (EAD). You can apply for an SSN on or after the start date printed on your EAD. 

J-1 students only

  • If you are applying for an SSN based on on-campus employment, bring an on-campus employment authorization letter from ISSS. For more information about J-1 on-campus employment and instructions on how to request an on-campus employment authorization letter, click here>>

  • If you are applying for a SSN based on Academic Training, you will also need to bring an AT authorization letter from ISSS. For more information about Academic Training and instructions on how to request Academic Training, click here>>

J-1 scholars only 

  • If you paid by Emory, you will also need to bring the invitation letter provided to you by your host departmemt. If you are not being paid by Emory, you do not need to apply for an SSN.

When to apply

F and J visa holders must have active SEVIS immigration records when they apply for a SSN. If you apply for a SSN before your record is active, your SSN application will be rejected, and you will need to reapply.

If you are new student at Emory, complete the New Student Check-In e-form in ISSS Link first so ISSS can activate your SEVIS record. Once you receive an email from ISSS letting you know your e-form was approved and your immigration record is active in SEVIS, wait 5 business days before applying for an SSN.

If you are a new J-1 scholar, complete the New Scholar Arrival e-form in ISSS Link first so ISSS can activate your SEVIS record. Once you receive an email from ISSS letting you know that your e-form was approved and your immigration record is active in SEVIS, wait 5 business days before applying for an SSN. 

How to apply

Bring the required documents to a Social Security Administration (SSA) office. You don't need an appointment, but you might have to wait in line for several hours. We recommend that you go early in the morning.

SSA offices that are close to Emory's campus:

  • DECATUR OFFICE: 3554 Covington Hwy, Decatur, GA 30032
  • DOWNTOWN ATLANTA OFFICE:  401 W. Peachtree Street NW, Suite 2860, Fl. 28th, Atlanta, GA 30308
  • NORCROSS OFFICE: 4365 Shackleford Road, Norcross, GA 30093

To locate other SSA offices in the Atlanta area, visit the SSA website>>

If your application is approved, the SSA will mail your social security card to you. This usually takes about 2 weeks.

When you receive the social security card, email nonresident.tax@emory.edu to let them know you have received your SSN, but do not send the number or a copy of the card via email. 

On-campus social security appointments (fall semester only)

Before the start of the fall semester, representatives from the SSA come to campus to help students apply for social security numbers. 

You can sign up for an on-campus social security appointment only if you:

  1. will receive a stipend from Emory based on services you're providing;
  2. have an on-campus job; or
  3. need a social security rejection letter to apply for a Georgia driver's license or ITIN. 

Before your appointment, prepare the following documents:  

 F-1 Students:

  • Obtain an offer letter from your on-campus employer or service fellowship provider. Provide your employer with the ISSS template letter so that the letter meets the SSA requirements.
  • Obtain an SSN Support Letter from ISSS by completing the Social Security Letter Request e-form found under the F-1 Student Services in ISSS Link at least 5 business days prior to your appointment.
  • Make a photocopy of both letters as well as your passport, I-20 (page 1 and 2), F-1 visa, and I-94 (print the electronic I-94 from the CBP website).

 J-1 Students:

  • Obtain an On-Campus Employment Authorization Letter from ISSS by completing the On-Campus Employment Authorization e-form found under the "J-1 Student Services" tab in ISSS Link at least 10 business days prior to your appointment.
  • Make a photocopy of the letter as well as your passport, DS-2019 (page 1), J-1 visa, and I-94 (print the electronic I-94 from the CBP website).

 Bring the following documents to your SSN appointment:

  • Original passport, visa, and I-20(F-1)/DS-2019(J-1) and I-94
  • Original offer letter and SSN Support Letter (F-1) OR original On-Campus Employment Authorization letter (J-1)
  • Copies of all your immigration documents and letters. Note: ISSS will not be able to make copies of your documents, so please make copies in advance.

Frequently Asked Questions

If I get a social security number, can I accept any job?

No. The SSN is not work authorization in itself.

Can I begin working before I receive my SSN?

If you are working for Emory, you can begin working while you wait for the SSN card to arrive in the mail. If you have been given off-campus work authorization, it will depend on your employer's internal policy as they may require an SSN for background check or other matters. However, federal law does not prohibit the hiring of a person based solely on the fact that the person does not have an SSN. Visit the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website for more information. 

I have an ID number from Emory. Do I still need a social security number? Do I have to change my ID number?

An Emory ID number is not a social security number. You don't need to change your Emory ID number.

Do I need an SSN to apply for a Georgia driver's license?

No, you can apply for a Georgia driver's license with a Social Security Number inelibility letter (Form SSAL 676) if you are not eligible for a SSN. The SSA issues letters of ineligibility at the time of application. Visit our Driving in the US page for more information.

How long does it take to get my social security card?

You should get your social security card in about 2 weeks. 

What am I supposed to do with my social security card?

First memorize your social security number, then keep it in a safe place with your personal records. Don't carry it in your wallet.

I got an SSN during my last stay in the US. Do I need a new one now?

No, you should only receive 1 SSN. It's good for life.