Purpose of the Social Security Number (SSN)
A social security number is necessary to receive any income for employment while in the U.S. While many nonimmigrants are eligible for social security numbers by virtue of their status in the U.S., others are not eligible for a social security number unless they are or will be working. The SSN is a lifetime number and can/should be applied for only once. There is no cost involved. Once the application is made it generally takes 2-4 weeks for the card with the SSN to be mailed to you.
F-1 and J-1 students are only eligible for social security numbers if engaging in lawful employment. Foreign nationals in most other statuses are eligible for social security numbers only after obtaining an employment authorization document (EAD) from USCIS.
On-grounds employment: F-1 students engaging in on-grounds employment with UVA must obtain a letter from the ISO before applying for the SSN. The letter can be obtained during advising hours. You will have this letter also signed by your on-grounds employer. This letter along with the passport, visa and I-94 will be required.
Optional Practical Training (OPT): an optional practical training employment authorization card (EAD)is sufficient employment documentation to support an application for a social security number with passport, visa and I-94. The application for the SSN may be made only once the start date on the EAD has been reached.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT): Students on approved F-1 CPT may apply for the SSN based upon that employment authorization which takes the form of a new I-20 specifically authorizing the CPT, along with passport, visa and I-94. Students with approved CPT may apply for the SSN no earlier than 30 days prior to the authorized employment.
Individuals in J-1 status are eligible to apply for a social security number after arrival in the U.S. and are not required to provide any documentation of employment. It is recommended however that J-1 students obtain a letter of permission from the ISO. This is not required of scholars. The DS-2019 should be presented with passport, visa and I-94.