Skip navigation
International Student and Scholar Services


Social Security Number

The Social Security system provides public assistance to the disabled, unemployed, and retired. Social Security benefits are supported by taxes collected from people currently employed. Although international students are usually exempt from paying Social Security taxes, you must apply for a Social Security number (SSN) if you are employed in the United States.

Eligibility for a Social Security Number

F-1 and J-1 students may only apply for a Social Security number when they have been offered employment, either on or off campus. Students with scholarships that provide for expenses other than tuition, fees, and books must apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) for taxation purposes instead of a Social Security number. Applications for Social Security numbers are processed by the Social Security Administration (SSA).

If you apply for a Social Security number and are not eligible, you will typically be given a letter of denial by the SSA office.

When to Apply for a Social Security Number

If you have recently arrived in the United States as a student and are eligible to receive a SSN, it is recommended that you wait at least ten days after arriving in the U.S. to apply. This wait time allows all of the government databases to be updated with your arrival information.

How to Apply for a Social Security Number

To apply for a Social Security number, complete the application and bring the following original documents to the Social Security office:

  • Form I-20 or DS-2019
  • I-94 Arrival/Departure Record (card or electronic printout)
  • Unexpired Passport

You will also need one or more of the following depending on the type of employment:

  • F-1 On-campus Employment:
    1. Letter from International Student & Scholar Services at DU confirming your lawful immigration status and employment (See ISSS Certification Letter section below)
    2. Letter of offer or employment signed and dated by your supervisor (See the SSN Handout for details on what must be included in this document)
  • F-1 Curricular Practical Training: I-20 with CPT employment authorization on Page 2
  • F-1 Optional Practical Training: Employment Authorization Document (EAD)
  • J-1 On-campus Employment or Academic Training: Letter authorizing employment from your J-1 program sponsor on the sponsor's letterhead with an original signature

Directions to Social Security Office accessible by light rail from the University of Denver.

Social Security Office Locator

NOTE: Social Security Administration offices are closed for normal in-person services. You must call and schedule an appointment to apply for an SSN.

Downtown Denver Office
1500 Champa Street
2nd Floor, Suite 200
Denver, CO 80202

Littleton Office
8000 Southpark Lane
Littleton, CO 80120

ISSS Certification Letter

If you are an F-1 student working on campus, you will need to request a certification letter from International Student and Scholar Services before applying for a Social Security number. You do not need a certification letter from ISSS if you are employed off campus through authorized Curricular Practical Training, Optional Practical Training, or J-1 Academic Training.

Submit the request for a certification letter online in the ISSS Portal. You will need to upload a letter from your on-campus employer. It must contain the information below. Here is a sample letter you can send to your supervisor.

As listed in the Sample Employer Letter, this document must contain the following information: 

  • Your legal name
  • Nature of the job you are, or will be, engaged in
  • Anticipated or actual employment start date
  • Number of hours you are expected to work
  • Employer's contact information, including the name and telephone number of your immediate supervisor
  • Employer Identification Number (EIN)
  • Date the letter was issued

Social Security Number as an Identification Number

The Social Security number is commonly used as a personal identification number in the United States, and you may be asked to provide one when requesting certain services such as opening a bank account or activating household utilities. If you do not have a SSN, you may need to explain that you are ineligible to apply for one and provide alternate documentation verifying your identify (i.e. valid passport or driver's license).