Your Social Security Number

A Social Security Number (SSN) is for employment purposes only. It is not a work permit. You can apply for a SSN once you have a job offer. You can apply as early as 30 days before the start date listed on your job offer letter from your employer.

There is no fee for a Social Security number and card — they are free. The nine-digit number is issued by the Social Security Administration only once, and you keep it for life. You need the number for many job-related situations in the US, including getting paid, and paying taxes. Visit the Social Security Administration for additional information.

Who is eligible to apply for a Social Security Number?

  • F-1 students with a on-campus job offer letter or who are receiving graduate support or funding from Michigan Tech
  • F-1 students with an off-campus job offer letter and CPT or OPT work authorization by IPS or their I-20 sponsor
  • J-1 students with a job offer and work permission from their DS-2019 sponsor
  • J-1 visiting scholars with financial support from Michigan Tech
  • J-2 dependents with an Employment Authorization Document (EAD card) issued by USCIS.

J-2 dependents who are not working, and F-2 dependents are not eligible for Social Security Numbers.

If you are not eligible to receive a Social Security Number, i.e., if you are a F-1/J-1 status holder who receives some sort of taxable income that is not an employment (fellowship, scholarship, grant, etc) you must apply for an ITIN for tax-related purposes. Please refer to this page for details on how to apply for an ITIN.

Application procedure to get an SSN

To apply for a Social Security Number, please fill out this request form to obtain a support letter from IPS — to fill out the form correctly, you will need the employment verification letter from your hiring department. We will notify you by email in 1-2 business days when the support letter is ready. You will take it with you when you go in person to the Social Security Office.

Take all of the following original documents:

  • Valid passport and visa (original)
  • Valid I-94 (found here:
  • All original I-20s (For F-1 visa only)
  • All original DS-2019s (For J-1 visa only)
  • Employment verification letter from the department/office where you are working, on their official letterhead 
  • Support letter from IPS (Processing support letters may take 2-3 working days. We will email you once your support letter is ready.)
  • Completed Social Security application (be sure to fill in all sections; if a question is not applicable to you, write in N/A)
  • If you have just applied for OPT, you must wait till you receive your EAD card (Employment Authorization Document) from USCIS, and take that with you

Where to go: 

Houghton Social Security Office
902 Razorback Drive, Suite 3
Houghton, MI 49931.
Phone: +1-800-772-1213

You Must Make An Appointment, don't just show up


Important information for new students

  • If you are a new student and have received a letter of funding from your department but you are yet to start your studies at Michigan Tech, you must wait till one week before your classes to request the support letter from IPS.
  • If you are a new student having just started your studies at Michigan Tech, you must wait till at least 2 weeks have passed from the starting date of your classes, before you go to the SSA office, even if you have received your support letter from IPS. This is because it may take up to 2 weeks for your SEVIS record to be updated on the SSA's SEVIS system. If you go before 2 weeks of classes have passed, they will send you back.
  • The SSA office now requires original I-20s, i.e., having a "wet" signature on the first page. If you only have PDF copies of your I-20s, taking print-outs of those will not suffice. While filling the Google form for the support letter, you must select Yes on the option that asks if you require an originally signed I-20, if you do not have an I-20 with a wet signature.

While your SSN is pending

You can begin work and be paid while you wait for your Social Security number to be issued, provided you have informed Payroll Services.

For more details about working while you are waiting for your number, see item 1C in the Social Security Administration Policy Regarding Foreign Students.

After you receive your Social Security card

Protect your Social Security Number. SSNs are often used by financial institutions, businesses, and others as a unique identification number. Identity thieves often target SSNs. Guard yours carefully.

  • Never carry your Social Security card or number with you. Instead, memorize your number. Keep the card at home in a secure place.
  • Only give your SSN to someone who has a specific and legitimate need for it.*
  • Be careful who sees or asks for forms, applications, or other materials with your SSN on them.
  • Never give your SSN out over the phone.
  • Do not reply to email or websites that request your SSN.
  • You do not need a SSN to open bank accounts.
  • Don't say your number out loud in public. If you need to give it to a bank teller or someone for identity purposes, write it down, then shred the paper.

*Some examples when you might be legitimately asked to provide your number: for insurance, employer payroll, financial transactions over $10,000, or when applying for credit or loans.

If you are employed by Michigan Tech (i.e., have any on-campus job, including GRA, GTA, etc), you must have your social security number linked with your Michigan Tech ID for tax-related purposes. This is a mandatory step, and failure to do this may result in termination of your position. To do this, you must either visit Payroll Services at Lakeshore Center in-person with your social security card, or send a copy of the card to them in a sealed envelope through regular or on-campus mail. Do not email them a scanned copy of the card. Please contact Payroll Services ( or 906-487-2280) for more information.