Social Security Number

In the United States, a Social Security Number (SSN) is a 9-digit number issued to citizens, permanent residents and temporary (working) non-residents by the Social Security Administration (SSA). Its primary purpose is to track individuals for taxation purposes; it is not intended to be used for identification purposes.

Tip: Stay safe and avoid common SSN scams targeting international students. Watch OIS’s safety advisory video for more information.

Eligibility Requirements

Per current legislation, SSNs can only be issued to:

  1. U.S. citizens
  2. U.S. Permanent Resident
  3. Non-resident who has an employment offer
    • F-2 dependents are not eligible for a SSN because they are not permitted to work
    • J-2 dependents are eligible for a SSN only if approved for work authorization.

Students and scholars who are not eligible for a SSN may be eligible for a Tax Identification Number (ITIN) to use for filing taxes during tax season reporting.

Additional SSN Information

  • Students do not need a SSN to register for classes at USC
  • F-1/J-1 students do not need a SSN to get a driver’s license in California
  • J-1 scholars are required to have a SSN to apply for a driver’s license in California
  • Students and scholars do not need a SSN to open a bank account
  • Landlords and utility, cable and cell phone companies may request a SSN to do a credit history check to determine the amount of deposit they will require to secure housing or to activate services. Students and scholars without a SSN may be required to pay a higher deposit payment prior to receiving service.
  • Students can start working without a SSN (while their SSN application is pending), but must have proper work authorization.
  • The SSA provides more information on SSNs for F-1 and J-1 students.

SSN Application Process

Identity Theft and Social Security

Credit History and SSN

FICA Taxes