Social Security Number
Not all international students need or will qualify for a Social Security Number. Use the resource links below and the frequenlty asked questions to determine if you need a Social Secuirty Number and how to apply.
Getting a Social Security Number
When can I apply?
You will need to wait at least 10 days after you enter the country and 48 hours after your record has been activated (registered) in SEVIS for the current term.
Contact the F-1 International Student Advisor to register your SEVIS record. You will need to be registered and confirmed for classes for the current term for your SEVIS record can be registered.
- For on-campus employment: no earlier than 30 days before the start date listed on your employment contract or authorization letter.
- For CPT: no earlier than 30 days before the CPT employment start date listed on page 3 of your CPT I-20
- For OPT: no earlier than the employment start date listed on your EAD (I-766)
- For other off-campus employment: no earlier than the employment start date listed on your EAD (I-766)
Where to go?
Clarksville Social Secutiy Administration
119 Center Pointe Drive
Clarksville, TN 37040
The Clarksville Social Security Administration office is located off Wilma Rudolph Boulevard between 101st Airborne Parkway and Trenton Road. If driving, from Wilma Rudolph Boulevard, turn onto Center Pointe Drive at the US Bank sign (red, white and blue sign).
What to bring?
- Completed Form SS-5 application
- Valid passport
- I-20 (For CPT, OPT or other off-campus employment, must show employment information on page 2)
- I-94 (If last entered the country after July 2013, you will need to print your electronic record)
- Official school letter from employer (If you have a campus job, bring your job contract, photocopy of a completed job application or proof of employment authorization)
- EAD: Employment Authorization Document, Form I-766 (If you have been approved for off-campus employment or OPT, not needed for CPT)
You must bring ALL these documents, or your application will be denied.
Frequently Asked Questions
In general, only noncitizens who have permission to work from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can apply for a Social Security number. Lawfully admitted noncitizens can get many benefits and services without a Social Security number.
There are only two valid nonwork reasons:
- A federal law requires you to provide your Social Security number to get a particular benefit or service.
- A state or local law requires you to provide your Social Security number to get general assistance benefits for which you have already qualified.
These are NOT valid nonwork reasons:
- Obtaining a driver’s license.
- Applying to rent/purchase a house or apartment.
- Applying for a bank account.
- Getting utility services or cell phone
- Registering for school.
- Obtaining health insurance.
The main use of Social Security numbers (SSN) by businesses and landlords is to check a person’s credit history. International students usually do not have any credit history since they have recently moved to the U.S., so it is useless for businesses to run a credit check on a SSN or to even ask for a SSN.
Many businesses will say that it is a requirement for the customer to provide a SSN. However, this is not true. Social Security numbers are the most common form of identification in the U.S., but they are not the only form of legal acceptable identification.
Yes, you can start to work on the approved employment start date without a SSN. However, you will not be able to receive a paycheck without one. When you apply, it is recommend that you ask for a receipt from the SSA to prove that you have applied for a Social Security card.
You can replace your card for free. You will need to bring the same original documentation used when first applied. Be sure to indicate on the application form that you are applying for a replacement card (question 11: check yes and answer questions 12-13).
The Tennessee Department of Motor Vehicles has an official memo to their employees listing all visa types that are not required to show SSN for driver’s certificate. There is a Social Security Number Affidavit form that you will need to complete and use.
Banks have a special form, called a W-8 that internationals use in place of Social Security cards.
For other purposes, such as setting up utilities, getting a cell phone or applying to rent an apartment, you can still qualify for services but may have extra procedures, such as paying a deposit.
Social Security Number Alternatives
There is another government-issued number that can work like a SSN. It is called an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) and is issued through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Some F-1 visa holders can get an individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) with appropriate proof and documentation.
See link above for an application and more information on where to mail the application and the required documentation.
For in-person requests, the closest IRS office is in Nashville:
Internal Revenue Service Taxpayer Assistance Center
Nashville, TN 37203