What is a Social Security Number?

The Social Security Number is a nine digit number that is unique to you only and is used for tax-payer identification, income reporting, and other official record keeping purposes.

A Social Security Number Card is an important identifying document. Please make sure you keep it in a safe place to avoid identity theft. Do not carry your card with you. Keep it in a safe place with your other important papers! 

To learn more about what a Social Security Number is please visit the Social Security website.

Remember: Social Security Numbers are not valid forms of work authorization! Please read the employment section to learn about student and exchange visitor work authorization on and off campus.

How long does it take to get a Social Security Number?

It takes about two to four weeks for an Social Security Number card to be issued. You are allowed to start working with just a letter/receipt from the Social Security Administration stating you have applied for a Social Security Number. However, this is at the discretion of your employer. Typically, if an employer will be doing a background check they will only accept a Social Security Number before you can start working. Please talk with the Human Resources Department of your employer about their policy.

Remember! Social Security numbers are not valid forms of work authorization! Please read the employment section to learn about student and exchange visitor employment on and off campus.

When can I apply for a Social Security Number?

F-1 students

  • If you have Curricular Practical Training Authorization, you can apply 30 days before the start date of your Curricular Practical Training
  • If you have Optional Practical Training Authorization, you can apply after you have both your I-20 with Optional Practical Training endorsement and your Employment Authorization card
  • If you are working on campus, you can apply after you receive your On-Campus Employment Letter from the Office of Global Services

J-1 students

  • If you have Academic Training Authorization, you can apply 30 days before the start date of your Academic Training
  • If you are working on-campus, you can apply after your receive your On-Campus Employment Letter from the Office of Global Services

What documents do I need?

Please note that X equals document is required.

Where do I apply?

After collecting all required documentation, you can apply for your Social Security Number with the Social Security Administration. The Social Security Administration has a few locations in the Boston area. When applying for your Social Security Number, you will need to go in person to one of the Social Security Administration locations.

Generally, there are two convenient locations for Northeastern students studying at the Boston campus:

  • Social Security Administration
    10 Causeway Street
    Boston, MA 02222
  • Social Security Administration
    10 Fawcett Street
    Cambridge, MA 02138

For Northeastern students studying at the Seattle campus:

  • Social Security Administration
    Suite 901
    915 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98174

If you are not located in Boston or Seattle, you can find the nearest Social Security Office near you here.