A Social Security Number (SSN) is a unique, 9-digit number used for taxpayer identification, income reporting, and record-keeping purposes.

Once issued, the number is valid for a lifetime. After you have received an SSN, you will never need to apply for a new one. If you lose your Social Security card, however, you will need to reapply for a replacement card — so keep the card safe! Additionally, never share your SSN with anyone other than your employer, US government agencies, or credible financial institutions. Sharing your SSN with other parties can lead to identity theft.

Who can apply:

When to apply:

  • You may apply once you have been offered an on-campus job, are authorized for Curricular Practical Training, or are applying for Optional Practical Training.
  • You may not apply more than 30 days prior to your employment start date.
  • If applying for your SSN for Optional Practical Training, you may submit your SSN application along with your Optional Practical Training application (Form I-765).
  • Once you have submitted your SSN application, you should receive your Social Security card in the mail within a few weeks. (If applying for the SSN via the I-765, you should receive your Social Security card within a few weeks of OPT approval.)
  • The SSN packet that you receive from the Office of Immigration Services (OIS) is valid for only 30 days. If you are submitting an SSN application more than 30 days beyond the issuance date of the SSN packet, your SSN application will be rejected. Please email us if you need an updated packet.

How and where to apply (Fall 2022)

For on-campus employment:
  1. Submit the On-Campus Employment Letter Request online form. The OIS will process your submission and email you when your letter is ready. If you were hired as a Pre-O Assessment Participant, you may skip this step.

  2. Plan your travel to the Social Security Administration (SSA) in Holyoke. You may drop-in without an appointment at the SSA in Holyoke (the SSA is open 9am-4pm, Monday-Friday, and is located at: 200 High Street, Holyoke, MA 01040).
    1. If you need help with transporation to the SSA in Holyoke, fill out the OIS's Social Security Application Travel form.

  3. Receive your On-Campus Employment Verification Letter from the OIS. The letter will be accompanied by SSN application instructions.

  4. Begin your SSN application online

  5. Print and prepare your SSN application materials (originals and one copy of each):
    1. On-Campus Employment Confirmation Letter (job letter prepared by your on-campus employer and signed by the OIS) — This letter must be signed no more than 30 days before your appointment.  Email the OIS if you need a new letter.
    2. Unexpired passport
    3. F-1/J-1 visa (i applicable; this is likely but not always in your unexpired passport)
    4. Most recent I-94 record 
    5. I-20/DS-2019 with valid travel signature
    6. A printed copy of the online control number from your online application

  6. Visit the SSA to complete your SSN application within 45 days of beginning your application online. This in-person process will take place at the Social Security Administration in Holyoke (200 High Street, Holyoke, MA 01040).  Bring your prepared application materials (originals and copies).

  7. Wait for your SSN card to arrive.  Your Social Security Number card should be mailed to you a few weeks after your appointment. 

  8. Once you have received your SSN card in the mail, update your records and enter your SSN in Workday.
For off-campus employment:

F-1 students are encouraged to apply for the SSN as a part of the OPT application.

F-1 students applying for the SSN for a paid CPT experience should follow the instructions above for on-campus employment but provide their I-20 with CPT authorization in lieue of an on-campus employment letter. The start date of the employment can be no more than 30 days in the future at the time the SSN application is submitted to SSA.