Social Security Number (SSN)

Last Updated: November 24, 2020

SSN Application during COVID-19

Dire need SSN Application Process during COVID-19 Pandemic

(Last updated September 9, 2021)

Due to COVID-19 the Social Security Administration (SSA) has closed its regular face-to-face services. First time SSN application must be for ‘dire need’ only.

An officer from the company/school must write a letter certifying the dire need for an SSN, with student name, date of birth, etc.

If you have only just arrived in the U.S. to begin your academic program, please make sure you completed your visa clearance process and SEVIS registration (for F-1) or validation (for J-1)  with the International Student Services (ISS) office prior to submitting your dire need SSN to the SSA office. Applying earlier or prior to completion of F-1/J-1 registration will not speed up the process, but may result in a notification from SSA that your records could not be verified.

The below is the process to be considered for an exception to apply for a dire need SSN, as informed to the ISS office by a SSA representative.

  1. Request for a job offer letter from your employer.
    1. Download the On-Campus Job Offer Letter Template (docx) or On-Campus Job Offer Letter Template (pdf)
      1. The job offer letter must be prepared on your hiring department’s letterhead; completed, dated and signed.
    2. For other than on-campus employment, please see the list of documents you should prepare as proof employment or proof of authorization below: Obtaining a Social Security Number item #3. 
  2. Once you receive your job offer letter,  request for a SSN dire need support letter and F-1/J-1 employment verification letter from the ISS.
    1. Log your request on ISS homepage:
      1. Select “Student Request” and log in with your UH username.
      2. Select ‘Social Security Number’
      3. Enter notes:  Requesting SSN dire need support letter.
    2. Read and follow the instructions to submit your employer job offer letter to the ISS via UH FileDrop.
  3. Within 2-5 business days ISS will issue two letters and transmit them to you via UH FileDrop, the originals will be mailed out to you at your mailing address. Make sure your mailing address is updated:
    1. ISS SSN dire need application support letter.
    2. ISS F-1/J-1 employment verification letter.
  4. After receiving your documents from the ISS you may select one of the two options to submit your application to the SSA Honolulu office:
    1. Faxing
      1. Fax your application to 833-950-2764
      2. Remember to include your telephone contact information!
    2. Mailing
      1. Make a copy for your record prior to mailing out the documents.
      2. Package should be mailed certified, but not required to:
        RM 1-114 FED BLDG,
        300 Ala Moana Blvd,
        Honolulu, HI 96850.
  5. Prepare your SSN dire need application packet:
    1. Passport copy
    2. F-1/J-1 visa copy (except for Canadians)
    3. Form I-20 (F-1) or form DS-2019 (J-1) copy
    4. Printout of I-94 Arrival/Departure Record (available at
    5. Completed application for a Social Security Card, form SS-5:
    6. Employer job offer letter
    7. ISS dire need SSN application support letter
    8. ISS F-1/J-1 employment verification letter
  6. The SSA Office manager is the only person allowed in the office to check mail right now. It could take up to 3 business days to get to the mail, as they don't go in every day. He or she will open the mail and scan the documents, which will eventually be forwarded to staff to work on remotely.
  7. Once scanned, the documents will be sent back immediately to the sender with comparable postage. So, if you mail in regular first class, they will mail back regular first class. If you mail certified, they will mail certified. There will be no notice sent at that time regarding returned documents.
  8. The SSA manager or higher level admin will determine if the "dire need" is warranted. If so, he or  she will forward the application to staff to work on, and contact the applicant to set up an appointment.
  9. Check your received calls often and set up your telephone voice mailbox so that SSA may leave a message to set an in-person appointment with you.
  10. The applicant will come in person to the appointment time at the SSA location.
  11. If deemed dire need, it can be expected to take 4-7 weeks to receive the SSN card from the time SSA receives the application. Please plan accordingly.

A Social Security Number (SSN) and an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) are both types of tax IDs. They are both 9-digits long and are used for similar purposes (e.g., to report income) but are used by two different types of applicants.

  • SSN Applicants: For students who will be performing paid employment.
  • ITIN Applicants: For students who are not working but need a tax ID for non-employment purposes such as to receive a scholarship, grant or fellowship. An ITIN cannot be used for employment.
  • NOTE: Not all students need a tax ID. You must be eligible in order to apply for either. You cannot hold an SSN and ITIN at the same time. Once you begin paid employment, you must apply for an SSN, and report to the IRS that you have switched to an SSN.

Obtaining a Social Security Number

Students with F-1 or J-1 student visa status must obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) for employment. Students who do not plan to work while studying are not eligible to receive an SSN.

To receive the SSN, follow the steps below:

1. Obtain the On-Campus or Off-campus Employment Verification

Use Templates of employment verification letters on the Forms page. These templates are formatted to meet the requirements of the Social Security Administration (SSA).

On-Campus Work: Ask your UH hiring unit (department) to prepare the on-campus verification letter on departmental letterhead. A person with hiring authority must sign and date the form.

Off-Campus Work: An off-campus organization hiring you must prepare the off-campus verification on corporate letterhead. A person with hiring authority must sign and date the form.

2. Bring the verification letter to ISS.

On-Campus Work: ISS will sign the on-campus form at the bottom.

Off-Campus Work: ISS will attach a separate letter to the off-campus verification form.

3. Apply for the SSN at the Social Security Administration Office

You will need the following documents:

    • On/Off-Campus Employment verification letter(s)
    • Completed application for a Social Security Card, form SS-5
    • Unexpired passport (original document)
    • I-20 or DS 2019 form (original document)
    • Printout of I-94 number (available at
    • Students working under F-1 Curricular Practical Training Page 2 of your I-20 must show the CPT approval with authorization signature.
    • Students working under F-1 Optional Practical Training Page 2 of your I-20 must show the OPT recommendation with authorization signature, and you must also present a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) providing the approved dates of OPT, pre- or post-completion as authorized by USCIS. SSN applications through OPT will not be accepted any earlier than the start date on the EAD.
    • Students working under F-1 Economic Hardship Page 2 of your I-20 showing the recommendation for this employment with authorization signature, and valid EAD providing the approved dates of pre-completion Economic Hardship permit as authorized by USCIS. SSN applications through economic hardship will not be accepted any earlier than the start date on the EAD.
    • J-1 students working under Academic Training or Economic Hardship must also present a letter from the sponsoring ARO authorizing the specific employment and type, pre- or post-completion, with a specific employer.

SSN and Related Documentary Information for F-1 and J-1 Students

The Social Security Administration cannot process your application if your on-campus employment or Curricular Practical Training (CPT) begins more than 30 days from your application date or the employment start date on your EAD is a future date. See this IRS handout for international students.

  1. The Social Security Administration (SSA) is required to verify applicant’s identity and visa information with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before the SSN can be issued.  The student’s SEVIS record must be in Active status.  New students must be registered for classes.
  2. The SSA is required to verify your legal entry into the US prior to issuing the SSN. Students new to the US should wait 10 days after arrival in the US before applying for an SSN. This is to allow required identity and visa information collected at the port-of-entry to be entered into a DHS database, and the information made available to the SSA.
  3. Students will receive the SSN card by mail. This may take a week or two. You may begin work prior to receiving your SSN card, but must present it to your employer within 30 days of hire. If you begin work prior to receiving your SSN card, you may prove that your SSN is pending by showing your employer a receipt for your SS application.
  4. When you are hired by a US employer, you must complete an I-9 form and show documents that verify both your identity and your permission to work in the US. Documents that satisfy the I-9 for an F-1 or J-1 student are typically the foreign passport, valid I-20 form (F-1) or valid DS-2019 (J-1), the I-94 number printout indicating a student has been admitted into the US for duration of status (D/S), and supplementary documents verifying a specific type of permission to work (such as CPT or OPT permit for an F-1 student, or an Academic Training letter or SEVIS printout for the J-1 student).
  5. Students hired by the UH may experience delays in receiving the first paycheck, due to SSN processing delays (and/or other delays).
  6. If you previously had an SSN but have lost your card, go to the SSA to apply for a replacement card. You may need to present all documents listed above as if you are applying for your first SSN card.
  7. Be very careful with your SSN and with the SS card.  Identity fraud in the US is typically related to a stolen SSN. If you are asked to present an SSN for other-than-employment purposes, it may be prudent not to provide it.

Upon application for a SS card, a receipt will be issued. Usually, the card will be mailed in approximately 10 business days.   

Contact the ISS for assistance if you have submitted your SSN application but do not receive your SSN within 4 weeks.

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) FAQ

What is an ITIN?

The ITIN is issued by the Internal Revenue Service to certain foreign citizens who need a tax identification number to comply with US tax laws.   For international students (F-1/J-1) the receipt of a taxable scholarship, fellowship, or grant would be the most common reason to need an ITIN.

Am I eligible for an ITIN?

An ITIN is a substitute for the Social Security Number (SSN) on US tax-related forms. Anyone who works in the US is required to have an SSN. Therefore, anyone who is working or plans to work should NOT apply for an ITIN but should instead use their SSN on all forms related to income that may be taxable. If you are not yet working but plan to work in the near future, do not apply for the ITIN but instead wait until you have a job offer and then apply for the SSN.

How do I apply for the ITIN?

The IRS has outlined a special process for ITIN applications for students in F or J status. The process was in response to an announcement the IRS made in June 2012, requiring ITIN applicants to submit ORIGINAL documents (passport, etc.) or “certified copies” of these documents from the issuing agency as part of the application. Since it is not advisable for international students to be without their passports, and since it is not always possible for international students to obtain a certified copy of their passport from their home country government, the IRS offered an alternative option to allow a university’s Designated School Officials (DSO) to certify photocopies of identification documents used in the ITIN application, and to issue letters verifying their authenticity. ONLY the ISS can provide the DSO certification and verification for international students attending the UHM.

1. Prepare the following:

  • Complete the W-7 application (W-7 Instructions). For help, please contact the Taxpayer Assistance Center in Honolulu
  • Photocopy your passport ID page and any pages that have authorized an extension.
  • Photocopy BOTH sides of your I-94 card OR if you entered the US after the paperless I-94 system was in place (summer 2013) you must print out your I-94.
  • Photocopy current I-20 or DS-2019
  • Photocopy your scholarship/fellowship/grant award letter (if applicable)
  • Attach copies of any other supporting documents needed per the W-7 instructions

2. Schedule an appointment with an ISS advisor.

State that the reason for the appointment is to request ITIN certification.

3. ISS will mail your ITIN application and supporting documents to the IRS for you.

If I become eligible for an SSN after obtaining an ITIN, what should I do?

The Honolulu Social Security Administration will process your SSN application and issue the number assuming you are eligible, whether or not your ITIN has been issued.   However, under IRS regulations you cannot have both the SSA and the ITIN, and it is your responsibility to request that your ITIN application be withdrawn, or if the ITIN has been issued, rescinded.  For help, please contact the Taxpayer Assistance Center in Honolulu.

Social Security Offices on Oahu

Rm 1-114 Fed Bldg
300 Ala Moana Blvd
Honolulu, Hawaii 96850
Phone: 1-800-772-1213
TTY: 1-800-325-0778
MTTF: 8:30am-3:30pm
Wed 8:30am-11:30am
Sat and Sun Closed
Also closed on Federal Holidays

970 Manawai Street
Kapolei, Hawaii 96707
Phone Number: 1-800-772-1213
TTY: 1-800-325-0778
MTTHF: 8:30am – 2:30pm
Wed: 8:30-11:30am
Sat and Sun Closed
Also closed on Federal Holidays

Direction to Honolulu SSA Office:

Board the #4 Nuuanu Dowsett bus at the intersection of University Ave. and Metcalf St.  Get off at the intersection of Queen St. and Mililani St.  Walk makai (toward the ocean) on Punchbowl St. until you get to the Prince Kuhio Federal Building. 

(All persons are screened upon entry to the federal building.)