How to Apply for an SSN

Current Students and Scholars
Students on OPT
SSA Office Locations

Current Students and Scholars

Students and scholars must wait at least 10 days after their initial entry into the U.S to begin the SSN application process. The SSA must receive its database update from the ports of entry before the application can be accepted. Additionally, applications cannot begin more than 30 days before the employment start date.

To begin the application process, students and scholars must first obtain a job offer and bring the job offer letter to OIS along with the SSN letter request form. In five business days, an OIS support letter will be prepared for the SSN application. It is not possible to obtain an SSN without this letter. The application for an SSN is free of charge.

Required documents for SSN Application at SSA:

  • Application for SS-5 (available at a SSA office or online)
  • Valid Passport
  • Original SEVIS I-20 (for F-1 visa holders) or DS-2019 (for J-1/J-2 visa holders)
  • A printout of your I-94 Arrival/Departure record
  • Proof of employment eligibility (such as an job offer letter, I-20 endorsed for CPT, or Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.
  • Social Security letter from OIS

All documents (except the I-94) must be originals. The SSA does not accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. SSA will then verify the documents with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before assigning a SSN.

A Social Security number and card will be issued within about two weeks of receiving certification from DHS. In most cases, the SSA can quickly verify the documents online.

Students and scholars are able to begin paid employment while their SSN application is pending by providing the SSN application receipt to their employer.  The SSA website addresses this here.

F-1 Students on OPT

F-1 students on OPT are able to apply for a SSN by taking the following original documents to SSA:

  1. Passport
  2. A printout of the I-94 Arrival/Departure record
  3. OPT I-20
  4. EAD card

Students must wait until their EAD card start date to apply for the SSN. A SSN letter from OIS is not required for students on OPT.

SSA Office Locations

The closest SSA office from USC University Park Campus:
1122 W. Washington Blvd. (2nd Floor)
Los Angeles, CA 90007


Take Metro Bus 200 from the northeast corner of Hoover St. and Jefferson Blvd. near USC and exit at the intersection of Hoover St. and Washington Blvd.

The closest SSA office from USC Health Sciences Campus:
215 N. Soto Street
Los Angeles, CA 90033

Located one block south of Cesar Chavez