Obtaining a Social Security Number

What is a Social Security Number?

The purpose of a social security number is to be able to pay taxes in the U.S. Although the number is often used for identification purposes, the social security administration will only issue a number to an F1 international student if you are legally working in the U.S. or have a concrete job offer. If you work while in the United States, you'll need to pay income tax. The social security number is how you'll be registered with the U.S. government to pay that tax. As an F1 student, you will probably not need to pay the "social security" or FICA tax, but you will need a social security number to pay the other mandatory taxes.

Do I need a Social Security Number?

Social security numbers are required for:

Employment: You must have a social security number in order to work in the United States. You may apply for on-campus employment, or later for OPT or CPT off-campus. See your international student advisor for details.

Social security numbers are not required for:

Driver License: If you are not eligible for a social security number, you may get a letter from your local Social Security Administration office stating that you have never been issued a number and bring this letter to your local Motor Vehicle office, along with your passport (including your US visa and I-94 card) and your I-20, where you can apply for a driver license. If you plan to have a car, you should take the driving exam and get a Colorado Driver License.

Class Registration: It is not necessary to have a social security number in order to register for classes. International students use an nine-digit number called Red Rocks International Student ID number to register for classes. The International Student Services & Programs office will assign one to you.

Banking: Although some banks will ask you for it, F1 visa holders do not need a Social Security number to open a bank account. The bank may ask F1 visa holders to fill out Internal Revenue Service form W-8 to prove that they are exempt from the requirement of providing a social security number.

How do I apply for a Social Security card?

To apply for a Social Security card after you have secured a job, please visit the International Student Services & Programs office to obtain a letter indicating your student eligibility for on-campus employment and therefore the Social Security number. Next, visit a Social Security office with this letter, your passport, I-94 card, and your I-20 to apply for the Social Security number and card. The closest office is at 13151 West Alameda Parkway in Lakewood. There is another central office at 1414 Champa Street in downtown Denver. You can view a map, directions, phone numbers, and office hours for the Social Security office closest to you by entering your ZIP code in the Social Security Administration Office Locator (link is external).