Last Updated: March 21, 2023
What is a Social Security Number?
A Social Security Number (SSN) is a unique identifier used to track payments from work, tax withholding and benefits. Students with F-1 or J-1 student visa status must obtain an (SSN) for employment. Students who do not plan to work while studying are not eligible to receive an SSN.
However, an SSN is NOT work authorization. By itself, it does not grant students any kind of authorization. This page provides the basic steps to apply for an SSN. It assumes that you already have the appropriate work authorization.
You do not need to apply for an SSN again if you already applied through the form I-765 on the following authorizations. If you did not receive an SSN card within two weeks of the start date of these authorizations, contact ISS immediately.
- F-1 OPT
- F-1 Economic Hardship Employment Authorization
- J-2 Employment Authorization
Steps to Apply for Social Security Number (SSN)
Skip this step if you received any of the following authorizations:
- F-1 CPT authorization on page 2 of form I-20
- F-1 OPT Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
- F-1 Economic Hardship EAD
- J-1 On-Campus Employment Authorization Letter
- J-1 Academic Training Authorization Letter
- J-1 Economic Hardship Authorization Letter
- J-2 EAD
In all other cases, ISS must issue a letter that confirms you are eligible for an SSN.
- Submit an online request to the ISS Office. Login with your UH username and password.
- After logging in, you will need to enter information on the next screen. From the drop-down menu for "Request Type," select "Social Security Number."
- Following the directions for uploading documents via UH Filedrop, upload a copy of one of the following:
- After submitting the document via UH Filedrop, click "Submit" at the original screen for the online form.
- You will receive an email from firstname.lastname@example.org when your request has been assigned.
- You will receive another email when your request has been completed/processed, and instructions to pick up your ISS letter from the ISS Office.
- If you are entering the U.S. for the first time an an "Initial" on your F-1 or J-1/J-2 record, or if you are an F-1 transfer or on a pending "change of level," ISS must register (activate) your record in the SEVIS database first, then you must wait a certain number of days before applying. See the table in Step 2 under "When to apply."
 The employer letter for F-1 on-campus employment must contain the following:
- Offer on employer letterhead
- Job description
- Employment start date
- Number of hours (per week) to be working
- Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Employer contact information, including phone number and immediate supervisor’s name
- Employment status (i.e., hired)
- Original (wet ink) signature of employer with signatory’s name, title and date
A template for the employer's signature is available on the ISS Forms page.
 The graduate assistantship letter must be the officially-recognized UH Manoa contract signed by the dean of the school or college. In lieu of this, an employer letter as described above may be submitted.
The type of employment authorization you have will determine the documents you need for your application. Use the table below as a guide.
|Type of Work or Authorization||Documents Required||When to Apply|
|On-Campus Employment (general)||No earlier than 30 days before the employment start date||If you are a newly-arrived "Initial" F-1 student, you must also wait at least 10 days after your U.S. entry and 3 days after your SEVIS activation by the ISS Office.
Or, if you are an F-1 transfer or a student with a pending "Change of Level," you must also wait at least 3 days from the date ISS registers (activates) your record in SEVIS for your new program.
|On-Campus Employment as a Graduate Assistant||No earlier than 30 days before the employment start date|
|On-Campus Employment for a Scholarship or Reduced Tuition||No earlier than 30 days before the employment start date|
|Curricular Practical Training||No earlier than 30 days before the employment start date|
|Optional Practical Training||On or after the start date of the EAD, if you did not apply for an SSN on the form I-765|
|Economic Hardship||On or after the start date of the EAD, if you did not apply for an SSN on the form I-765|
J-1 Students, J-2 Dependent Spouses
If you are a J-1 student, all employment authorizations will require the same documents for your SSN application. Use the table below as a guide.
|Type of Work or Authorization||Required Documents||When to Apply|
|On-Campus Employment (general)||Any time within the program start and end dates||If you are a newly-arrived "Initial" J-1 student or J-2 dependent, you must also wait at least 10 days after your U.S. entry and 3 days after your SEVIS activation by the ISS Office.|
|On-Campus Employment as a Graduate Assistant||Any time within the program start and end dates|
|On-Campus Employment for a Scholarship or Reduced Tuition||Any time within the program start and end dates|
|Academic Training||Any time within the program start and end dates|
|Economic Hardship||Any time within the program start and end dates|
|J-2 Work Authorization||On or after start date of EAD, if you did not apply for an SSN on the form I-765|