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Social Security Number (SSN) & ITIN

Anyone who works in the United States need a Social Security Number (SSN). SSN is for employment and tax purposes only.  The SSN is also used to track your credit and work history.  The U.S. government assigns the Social Security Number and will only be assigned one SSN per lifetime.  If you are eligible for a Social Security Number, you need to apply for it and will receive a Social Security Card with the number on it.

  • The Social Security Card is not a work permit.  You will need to receive employment authorization in order to begin employment and obtain SSN.
  • Social Security Number is not required to open a bank account, get a driver’s license, rent an apartment or get a cell phone.  Many vendors will allow you to substitute your student ID number or use other verification to obtain their services.

Visit the Social Security Administration’s website for more information: or

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Who can and when to apply?

Who? Visa/Employment TypeEligible?When?
New/Initial Student & ScholarYes (usually on campus employment or Graduate Assistantships for students)Must have checked-in with ISSS, have been in the US at least 10 days.
F-1 On Campus Employment (including Graduate Assistantships)YesEarliest is 30 days before employment begins.
F-1 CPTYesEarliest is 30 days before employment begins. Must have CPT authorization on I-20.
F-1 OPTYesIt is possible to apply for SSN and the OPT EAD at the same time, the I-765 EAD application form. If you did not choose this option when apply for OPT, you can apply once you received EAD card and start date on EAD card is reached.
F-1 No EmploymentNot eligible
F-2Not eligible
J-1 Students and Student Interns – On Campus EmploymentYesEarliest is 30 days before employment begins as indicated on DS-2019 with employment authorization
J-1 Students Academic Training (AT)YesEarliest is 30 days before AT begins. Must have AT authorization on DS-2019
J-1 ScholarYesMust have checked in with ISSS AND have been in the US at least 10 days
J-2Yes, only if you have an EADOnce you have work authorization via EAD card and the start date on EAD card is reached

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How to apply?

To apply for Social Security number, you must appear in person at the Social Security Administrative Office, complete an application form and provide original supporting documents to verify your age, identity, and lawful status.

Step 1: If you are a new/initial student or scholar, you must complete your SEVIS check in with ISSS first and have been present in the United States for 10 calendar days. Current students skip to Step 2 if you have on campus employment; skip to Step 3 if you are a scholar or student that has work authorization for off campus employment/CPT/OPT/AT.

Step 2: If you are an F-1/J-1 student with on-campus employment, you will need to request a social security support letter from the ISSS office before you can apply for your SSN.  All other students and scholars can skip to Step 3.

  • Submit your completed and signed social security support letter request to ISSS via email ( This requires a signature from your immediate supervisor in your hiring department.

Step 3: Fill out the Form SS-5 Application for a Social Security Card and submit to the Social Security Administration (SSA) office. When submitting to the SSA office, make sure you have the following documents with you:

  • Valid passport
  • Valid I-94 (retrieve I-94)
  • Valid status document
    • Most current I-20 (F-1 Students only)
    • Most current DS-2019 (J-1 Exchange Visitors only)
  • Letter of employment:
    • Social Security Support Letter (Vanderbilt students only)
    • Invitation or Appointment Letter (J-1 Scholars only)

*For Peabody students applying for a Teaching License, should also take a copy of the Teaching License application as proof of need for an SSN.

Tips for completing SSN application

  • #5 Citizenship– check “Legal Alien Allowed to Work”
  • #9 A. Mother’s Maiden Name –application is asking for your mother’s name before marriage (if different)
    • B. Mother’s Social Security Number – application is asking for your mother’s SSN if she was ever employed and/or lived in the U.S.
  • #10 A. Father’s Name – application is asking for your father’s name
    • B. Father’s Social Security Number – application is asking for your father’s SSN if he was ever employed and/or lived in the U.S.
  • #16 Mailing Address – Place that you are currently living in Nashville. If you are on OPT and not in Nashville, you should use the address where you are currently living.
    • The U.S. Post Office will not forward Social Security Cards or deliver them to you at another person’s address. You should not use care of (C/O) addresses!
    • If you do not have residence in Nashville yet, it is best to wait to apply for card when you have one. If you are planning to move soon, you may want to wait until you have more of permanent address.

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Where to apply?

You will need to apply for SSN physically at your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office.  If you live in Nashville, below is the local SSA office.

The local SSA office:

Address: 120 Athens Way, Nashville, TN 37228
Phone Number:  877-808-5461
Hours:  Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday 9:00 AM – 4:00 PM; Wednesday 9:00 AM – 12:00 PM; Saturday/Sunday- closed.

Directions to SSA office

By Car

  • From Vanderbilt, take 21st Avenue south away from downtown.
  • Turn the 2nd left onto Broadway.
  • Turn left at George L Davis Blvd (signs for I-40/I-65).
  • Take the ramp on the left onto I-40 W/I-65 N. Continue to follow I-65 N.
  • Take exit 85 for 8th Ave/US Hwy 41 Alt toward State Capitol/Metro Center Blvd.
  • Turn left at Metrocenter Blvd.
  • Turn right at Athens Way.
  • Social Security is the last building on the right.

By Bus (WeGo Public Transit)

  • Visit the WeGo website for more you will be able to select “trip planning” and provide the address to view the bus route needed.

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After receiving your SSN

You will need to update your employment information (I-9) with your employer and provide copy of your SSN card to your employer’s HR office.  Make sure that you Do not mail or email a copy of your card to your employer.  You should go to the HR office in person to do so.

For Students:

  • You MUST FIRST take your SSN card to the Registrar’s Office located in the Baker Building (110 21st S.) Suite 110 and to
  • Human Resources and International Tax Office located in Baker Building (110 21st S) on 10th Floor to update your I-9

*If you fail to take your SSN card to Registrar’s Office first, you may have problems with your VUNETID.

If your employer is not Vanderbilt University, make sure you contact your employer’s Human Resources office to provide copy of your SSN card to update your I-9.

For Scholars:

  • You should provide copy to your Department and to
  • Human Resources and International Tax office located in Baker Building (110 21st S) on 10th Floor to update your I-9

It is important that you keep your SSN information private, except when needed to disclose for official purposes.  Keep your card in a safe and secure place. Do not share your SSN over the phone with individuals you do not know or through email as SSN is a unique ID and is often target of “identity theft”.

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What to do if you are not eligible for an SSN? (ITIN)

If you are not eligible for an SSN, you could apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) if needed. ITIN is a nine-digit number assigned to an individual who is not eligible for an SSN but is required to have an ITIN for some U.S. payment or tax reporting purpose.  Keep in mind that ITIN is not an SSN and cannot be used for employment purposes.

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Other SSN Resources & Forms  


Social Security Number Application

Social Security Support Letter Request

W-7 for ITIN


Social Security Number and Card

Social Security Numbers for Noncitizens

International Students and SSN

Foreign Workers and SSN

Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number

How you can help protect your SSN and Keep your information safe

Non-U.S. Citizen/Adult – replacement SSN card

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)

Publication-Understanding your IRS ITIN.

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