Social Security

A Social Security Number (SSN) is a unique, 9-digit, identification number issued by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA). Although originally developed as a way to track and disburse social benefits such as pensions, the SSN has become a universal identification number used for many purposes including, but not limited to:

  • Employer payroll
  • Internal Revenue Service (federal taxes)
  • Driver’s Licenses (some states)
  • Credit History

General Requirements

Regardless of immigration status, the following are general requirements for all international students:

  • Must be present in the U.S. for at least 10 days before applying
  • Valid Passport
  • Stamped original I-20
  • Electronic I-94
  • Job Offer letter
  • Social Security Application

Additional Requirements

F-1 Students


On-campus employment

Curricular Practical Training 

  • CPT approval on the second page of I-20
  • Job Offer letter
  • Must apply no more than 30 days prior to start date of CPT up to one week prior to start date

Optional Practical Training

  • Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  • OPT recommendation by DSO on 2nd page of I-20
  • Cannot begin work until the start date listed on the EAD


Social Security Administration Offices

Philadelphia Social Security Card Center
2 Penn Center, Suite 2000B, 1500 JKF Blvd
Philadelphia, PA 19102
Hours: Monday – Friday, 9 am – 3:30 pm

Cherry Hill Social Security Administration
Suite 100, Five Executive Campus
Cherry Hill, New Jersey, 08002
Hours: Monday – Friday:09:00 AM – 03:30 PM

The Social Security Card

Once your application for a SSN has been approved by the Social Security Administration (SSA), the SSA will send a Social Security card to the address you provided on your application form.  The usual processing time is one- two weeks. If additional security procedures are necessary, processing times may range from 4-8 weeks. Most likely you will receive a Social Security card that has the notation- “Valid for work only with DHS Authorization.”

Security and Identity theft

Once you obtain an SSN, it will be the same number for your lifetime. Due to this, you should know where your original card is located and keep your Social Security card in a safe place. If you lose your card and are no longer working, it can be difficult or impossible to obtain a new card. The application evidence requirements to replace a lost card are the same as those listed above.