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for International Students

Social Security & Taxes


Under current COVID-19 operations, the U.S. Social Security Administration has closed its offices throughout the U.S. for walk-in services. First-time applicants for a Social Security Number (SSN) need to call their local SS field office and request to speak to an agent in order to make an in-person application appointment. An appointment will be granted only upon successfully answering pre-qualifying questions, and required original documents must be on hand to answer these questions. After the in-person appointment, processing is expected to take approximately two weeks.

What is a Social Security Number?

In the U.S., a Social Security number (SSN) is a 9-digit number issued to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and temporary (working) residents. The number is issued to an individual by the U.S. Social Security Administration, and it is used for taxation and other purposes. Once issued, you have this number for life. 

  • A social security number is NOT the same thing as your SDSU Red ID number.
  • If you want to work in the U.S., you must obtain a SSN.  However, simply getting a SSN does not authorize you to work in the U.S.
  • Keep your Social Security card in a safe place, and keep several copies of it.

Eligibility for SSN

International students: To get a SSN, you must be employed and either working on campus or have work authorization if you are working off campus.


How to get a SSN for On-Campus Employment


How to get a SSN for Off-Campus Employment


Paying taxes on your earnings


Social Security Card Office Locations


What you do NOT need a SSN for:

  • California Driver’s license and ID card
  • SSNs are often used for checking credit, but some companies do not require them.
    • Opening a bank account
    • Purchasing a cell phone plan
    • Renting an apartment

Social Security tax

International students in F-1 and J-1 status are exempt from Social Security tax (FICA). However, they are generally subject to federal and state income taxes.

Document processing time

Please allow 5 to 7 business days to process your document request at the ISC. You will receive an email from ISC Reception when your form is ready. If you have not heard from us after 7 days, please feel free to contact the ISC.