Social Security and Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers

 Applying for the SSN - Individual Tax Payer Identification Number

International students and employees are required to obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) for employment purposes.  The Social Security Administration (SSA) is required to verify identity and visa information with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before the SSN can be issued.  In order to insure a smooth application process, please be aware of the following:

  • Individuals new to the U.S. should wait 10 days (or longer in certain situations) after arrival to the U.S. before applying for a SSN. You may be anxious to apply for your SSN right away, but be patient.  This 10-day wait allows time for all the government databases (including the database that the SSA will use to verify your eligiblilty).  J-1 and F-1 visa holders should make every effort to meet with Immigration Services within their first eight days in the U.S.  At the newcomer appointment, we must validate your F or J record in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) by updating your SEVIS status to 'active'.  It takes an additional two days from when Immigration Services activates your SEVIS record for this information to be reflected in the government databases. If your SEVIS record does not show as 'active', your application for an SSN will be rejected even if you have been in the U.S. for more then 10-days or have had your SEVIS record set to 'active'.  [Please note that the same requirements apply for individuals who intend to apply for a Massachusetts Driver's License].
  • Check your forms and bring all of your paperwork.  Data integrity is very important because if you have different information on different forms, it will cause delays.  Specifically, verify that the information that you write on your I-94 arrival/departure record at the port of entry matches your passport and Form DS-2019 or Form I-20.  When you go to the Social Security Office [or Registry of Motor Vehicles if for a drivers license], remember to bring all of your paperwork, as listed below.
  • Send Immigration Services the receipt confirming your SSN application. The SSA issues a letter of receipt for all applications. Please fax or e-mail this receipt to Immigration Services immediately [fax: 508-856-5922 /]. The Social Security Card will be sent via regular mail.  E-mail or fax a copy of your SSN card [fax: 508-856-5922 /] to Immigration Services as soon as you receive it. The card is noted “Not Valid for Employment”; however, the individual may legally be employed as long as he/she can present proper documents for I-9 form verification.
  • If you have a SSN from a previous stay in the United States, you do not need to apply for a new number. Once you have an SSN it is your number for life. Therefore, when you leave the U.S., we recommend that you keep the card in a safe place, in case you return to the U.S. in the future. If you need to replace a card from a previous visit, contact the SSA for assistance.

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Applying for the SSN

Non-Immigrant visa holders (F, J, H, O, TN, etc.) should present the following at the local SSA Office:

  • Social Security Application pdf small icon 17x17Form SS-5
  • Employment letter (obtained at initial meeting with Immigration Services)
  • Passport
  • Form I-20 / Form DS-2019 / Form I-797 / Employment Authorization Document
  • I-94 (arrival / departure record)

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Individual Tax Payer Identification Number (ITIN)

An Individual Tax Payer Identification Number (ITIN) is a tax processing number only available for certain individuals who are not eligible for Social Security Numbers (SSN) including those listed below:

  • B1 Visitor for business
  • B2 Visitor for pleasure
  • F2 Spouse or dependent of F-1
  • H4 Spouse or dependent of H-1
  • J2 Spouse or dependent of J-1 (unless the individual has an I-688B card)
  • O3 Spouse or dependent of O-1
  • WB Visitor for business
  • WT Visitor for pleasure

pdf small icon 17x17Form W-7, IRS Application for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number, is used to apply for an ITIN. To obtain an ITIN, you must complete this form which requires documentation substantiating foreign/alien status and true identity.

The form along with the documents may either be sent by mail to ITIN Operation, P.O. Box 149342, Austin, TX 78714-9342, presented at Internal Revenue Service (IRS) walk-in offices, or processed through an Acceptance Agent authorized by the IRS.

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