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Social Security Numbers: Frequently Asked Questions

Below are frequently asked questions about Social Security Numbers (SSN) and how the International Services Office (ISO) can help you.

What if I already have an SSN?

Can I work while my SSN application is pending?

Can the University of Rochester pay me without having my SSN?

Should I report my SSN when it arrives?

Do I have to pay US Social Security taxes?

What is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)?

How can I show that I am ineligible for an SSN?

How can I access my Social Security account?

What if I already have an SSN?

If you have an SSN, your number will not change and you may report that information as you feel comfortable. However, you may need to request a replacement card, either because your original card has been lost or stolen or has an outdated notation printed above your name.

All nonimmigrants with valid US work permission should have a card stamped “VALID FOR WORK ONLY WITH DHS AUTHORIZATION.” If you have a card that reads "Not valid for employment" or any other notation, you may need to request a replacement card.

The application process and eligibility requirements are the same whether you are applying for your initial SSN or a replacement card.

Can I work while my SSN application is pending?

Yes. Individuals who do not have a Social Security Number yet may pursue authorized employment while the application is being processed.

For information on how to report wages for an employee who has not yet received an SSN, visit the Social Security Administration’s web page on employer responsibilities when hiring foreign workers.

Can the University of Rochester pay me without having my SSN?

Yes. University Payroll has established a policy that allows you to receive your University of Rochester paychecks prior to the SSN being issued.

The first paycheck will be issued automatically. After this first pay period, Payroll must have a copy of your SSN receipt in order for you to continue receiving payments. F-1 and J-1 students also need to provide a copy of their eligibility letter from ISO.

While the application is pending, you can receive payments for up to two months. If you still have not received your SSN after this time, please contact ISO for further guidance. Our staff can help you resolve problems with your application and request a continuation of University payments.

Should I report my SSN when it arrives?

Yes. Once your SSN has been issued, several updates may be necessary.

Since the SSN is necessary for employment and tax purposes, you will need to supply the number to your employer(s). You may be asked to show the original card for verification. If you have bank accounts or plan to open a credit card, the SSN will likely be required.

Within the University, please notify your hiring department and update your GLACIER and HRMS records as soon as your SSN is available. F-1 and J-1 students working on campus also need to update their student record through their registrar's office.

Do I have to pay US Social Security taxes?

Possibly. You may be exempt from Social Security taxes (FICA) during the first few years in the United States. Your individual exemption will on depend whether you are categorized as a non-resident alien for tax purposes. Use the GLACIER tax compliance software to determine your tax category, which is listed on your tax summary.

If you believe FICA taxes have been withheld from your paycheck in error, notify your employer. Once you are categorized as a resident alien for tax purposes, you will be subject to paying Social Security taxes on your US earnings.

What is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)?

International students, dependents, and other visitors who are ineligible for a Social Security Number may be able to apply for an ITIN instead. This number is issued to individuals with a required reporting need and can be used in place of an SSN on some US tax forms. The ITIN cannot be used for identification purposes outside the tax system.

Applications must be submitted to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The Rochester-area IRS branch is located at 255 East Avenue, Rochester, NY 14604 (near the Eastman School of Music). Visit the IRS website for more information.

How can I show that I am ineligible for an SSN?

The Social Security Administration issues a letter of ineligibility for those individuals who are unable to apply for the SSN. This can be helpful to show government agencies that normally require an SSN. For example, you could show this letter to the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles instead of a valid SSN card when applying for a New York State driver's license.

To request the letter, you need to take your immigration documents (showing your ineligible status) to a Social Security Administration office. For many purposes, the ineligibility letter is considered valid for only 30 days from the date it is printed.

How can I access my Social Security account?

When your new Social Security card arrives in the mail, register for your personal Social Security account online.

This account is an excellent tool that helps you plan for the future. It lets you verify your earnings on your personal Social Security Statement, change your address and phone number, and more — all online.

To create a my Social Security account, you must be at least 18 years old and have a:

  • Valid email address
  • Social Security number
  • US mailing address

Setting up an account is quick, secure, and easy. For more information, the Social Security Administration provides handouts titled “International Students and Social Security Numbers” (PDF) and “Your Social Security Number and Card” (PDF).