Social Security Numbers and International Students
The Social Security system provides public assistance to the disabled, unemployed, and retired. However, social security numbers are also used as a form of unique identification. You may be asked to provide one when requesting certain services such as opening a bank account or activating household utilities. If you do not have a Social Security Number (SSN), you may need to explain that you are ineligible to apply for one and provide alternate documentation verifying your identity (i.e. valid passport or driver's license).
F-1 and J-1 students may only apply for a SSN when they have been offered employment, either on or off campus AND they have obtained the necessary work authorization. J-1 Research Scholars, Professors, or Short-Term Scholars employed by DU are eligible to apply for a SSN. Applications for Social Security Numbers are processed by the Social Security Administration (SSA).
If a student does not have an SSN but has scholarships which provide for expenses other than tuition, fees, and books, they must apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for taxation purposes instead. Applications for an ITIN are processed by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).
If you apply for a Social Security Number and are not eligible, you will typically be given a letter of denial by the SSA office.
SSN and Work Authorization
A Social Security Number (SSN) does NOT grant any work authorization. All students are required to obtain and to maintain employment authorization since working without the proper authorization is a violation of their status which can lead to severe consequences.
Per the Social Security Administration, students who have applied for a Social Security Number can begin working before the SSN has been received.
If you recently arrived in the United States as a student or recently transferred to DU, you must complete the ISSS Check-In process in order for us to activate your SEVIS ID. You will need to log into the ISSS Portal. Click on the Control Center tab (far right of screen) and choose the Check In request.
SEVIS records are typically activated after classes begin and you are enrolled full-time (12 credits for undergraduates or 8 credits for graduate students). If you have an on-campus job and need to apply for the SSN before classes begin, email email@example.com to register your SEVIS record.
To apply for a Social Security number, refer to the instructions from the Social Security Administration. You can begin your application online or complete the paper application. You will need to visit a local Social Security office to complete the application process. Bring the following original documents to the Social Security office:
- Form I-20 or DS-2019
- I-94 Arrival/Departure Record (card or electronic printout)
- Unexpired Passport
You will also need one or more of the following depending on the type of employment:
- F-1 On-campus Employment:
- Letter from International Student & Scholar Services at DU confirming your lawful immigration status and employment (See ISSS Certification Letter section below)
- Letter of offer or employment signed and dated by your supervisor (See the SSN Handout for details on what must be included in this document)
- F-1 Curricular Practical Training: I-20 with CPT employment authorization on Page 2
- F-1 Optional Practical Training: Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
- J-1 On-campus Employment or Academic Training: Letter authorizing employment from your J-1 program sponsor on the sponsor's letterhead with an original signature
- J-1 Research Scholar, Professor, or Short-Term Scholar: Employment offer letter from DU host department.
Directions to Social Security Office accessible by light rail from the University of Denver.
Downtown Denver Office
1500 Champa Street
2nd Floor, Suite 200
Denver, CO 80202
8000 Southpark Lane
Littleton, CO 80120
ISSS Certification Letter
If you are an F-1 student working on campus, you will need to request a certification letter from ISSS before applying for a Social Security number. You do not need a certification letter from ISSS if you are employed off campus through authorized Curricular Practical Training, Optional Practical Training, or J-1 Academic Training.
Submit the request for a certification letter online in the ISSS Portal. You will need to upload a letter from your on-campus employer. It must contain the information below. Here is a sample letter you can send to your supervisor.
As listed in the Sample Employer Letter, this document must contain the following information:
- Your legal name
- Nature of the job you are, or will be, engaged in
- Anticipated or actual employment start date
- Number of hours you are expected to work
- Employer's contact information, including the name and telephone number of your immediate supervisor
- Employer Identification Number (EIN)
- Date the letter was issued
SSN as ID Number
The Social Security number is commonly used as a personal identification number in the United States, and you may be asked to provide one when requesting certain services such as opening a bank account or activating household utilities. If you do not have a SSN, you may need to explain that you are ineligible to apply for one and provide alternate documentation verifying your identify (i.e. valid passport or driver's license).
Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
F-1 and J-1 students with scholarships that provide for expenses other than tuition, fees, and books must apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for taxation purposes instead of a Social Security number. To apply for an ITIN, we recommend that you make an appointment at the IRS Denver Office, a designated IRS Taxpayer Assistance Center. Please bring the following to your appointment: