Applying for Social Security


  1. Within 24 hours of arriving in the U.S. complete SEVIS Step 1 (above link)

  2. Complete this document: List your employer's address so that your card is mailed to a safe and secure place.

  3. Find your nearest Social Security Office by clicking on "Find An Office" at this website:

  4. Wait at least 1 full business day after completing SEVIS Step 1, then bring your passport, J1 visa, and DS-2019 to the Social Security Office and apply.

  5. If you have any problems, have the Social Security officer write down the problem

  6. Once you have a letter from the Social Security Office saying that you have successfully applied for the Social Security card, you may begin work.

  7. If you wish to get the Social Security number quickly, return to the Social Security Office and ask if the number has been assigned yet.

Please read this document from the Social Security Administration:

International Students And Social Security Numbers

Frequently Asked Questions:

I already have a Social Security number.  Do I need to apply again?

No.  If you know your Social Security number, you do not need to re-apply.  Be sure to bring your Social Security card with you to the U.S.  If your employer requires that you show him/her your 
Social Security card, and you do not have it, visit a Social Security office to request a replacement card.

I lost my passport before applying for Social Security.  What should I do?

Unfortunately, you will need to end the program early and return home.  There is no way for you to apply for Social Security without the J1 visa, which is inside your passport.  And, there is no way to get a replacement J1 visa while you are in the U.S.

Contact ERDT and we will assist you in contacting your embassy or consulate to get a replacement passport so that you can travel home.  You may still travel in the U.S. for the 30 day grace period, if you wish, but you may not work.

I lost my DS-2019 form before applying for Social Security.  What should I do?

You will need a replacement.  Contact ERDT and we will help.

What should I do if I have problems applying for Social Security?

When you go to the Social Security Office, write down the name, direct phone number (including extension) and email address of the person you talked to.  This is the only way ERDT can contact the Social Security Office.

Social Security told me that my name or birthdate is wrong on my I-94.  What should I do?

You will need to go to a Port Of Entry to have the I-94 corrected.  Contact ERDT for help finding the nearest port, or visit , click on your state, and look for the closest location with a Service Port (Usually, it will be located at an airport).  Call the phone number and tell them you need a corrected (not new) I-94 card.  They will instruct you on how to get to their office.   Be sure to bring all of your documents with you.

Do I have to wait until I have my Social Security card or number before beginning work?

No.  You may legally begin work as soon as you have successfully applied for Social Security.  Show your employer the letter you received from Social Security when you applied.  If your employer is unsure about this, you can show them this document: International Students And Social Security Numbers or they can contact ERDT.  They can also visit this web page:

Where should I have my Social Security card mailed?

We recommend having your Social Security card mailed to you via your employer, in case you move or have any mail problems at your housing.  Before you go to the Social Security office, ask your employer to write down the mailing address for you.

My Social Security card is taking too long to get here.  Is there any way to find out my number?

If you go to the Social Security office, they can give you the number even before you receive the card in the mail.  You will need to show your ID to get the number.  

If I quit a job before I get my Social Security card, do I need to give the number to my former employer?

Yes.  If you do not give your former employer your Social Security number, you will not be able to file a tax return and get your tax refund.