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Social Security Number

A Social Security Number (SSN) is a national identification number used to track US earnings and to report required tax information. It is assigned permanently and does not change or expire, even after you return home or during an extended absence from the country.

As a nonimmigrant, you are not required to have an SSN unless you become employed in the United States. The International Services Office (ISO) can:

  1. Help you to determine if you are eligible for the SSN
  2. Advise you on the application process

Learn more about:

Other questions? Contact us.

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Your SSN is the key to your financial identity in the United States. Keep your SSN private so others don’t use it without your knowledge or permission. We recommend keeping your SSN card in a safe place, but separate from your immigration documents.

According to US law, a Social Security Number is required only for employment and tax-reporting purposes. However, many institutions—including banks, credit cards companies, the Department of Motor Vehicles, utility companies, and other businesses—often request an SSN to establish identity or review your credit history. It is your choice whether to give your SSN in these cases, but the business also has a choice of whether to provide a service without that information. If you are uncertain about giving out your SSN, ask:

  • Why the number is required
  • How it will be used
  • Whether it will be protected

ISO has prepared a handout on identity theft (PDF). It provides helpful tips on keeping your information safe as well as steps to take if you suspect you may be a victim of this crime.

There are several credit reporting agencies in the United States that can help monitor your personal details and report any fraudulent activity on your account(s). Such agencies can help notify potential creditors of the problem and require that you be contacted directly before approving a new credit application or large transactions.