Social Security and Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers

NOTE: The Trenton Social Security Administration is currently closed to the general public due to COVID-19, so you must have an appointment to apply for an SSN.  Please call the Social Security office nearest you to schedule an appointment. The office nearest to Princeton is in Trenton. Their phone number is 866-964-0026. Those applying for a SSN denial letter should review the application process below in section 5. 

STUDENTS ONLY: As outlined in section 4 below, you will require an on-campus employment letter with original signatures from both the on-campus employer/department you are working for and our office. Please see the instructions in section 4 to submit a request to our office for the Davis IC signature. Processing time is five (5) business days from receipt of a complete submission. NOTE: Your on-campus employer/department MUST sign the letter first before you submit this request to the Davis IC. Incomplete submissions will result in delay in processing.

Additionally, note that due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) has issued guidance permitting schools to issue electronic I-20s that you can print and use for travel. However, if you need to apply for a social security number, the original form is required. You will be able to request a physical I-20 with original signatures when requesting your employment verification letter signature from the Davis IC. Please see section 4 below. 

 

1. What is a Social Security Number?

A Social Security Number (SSN) is a tax identification number issued by the U.S. Social Security Administration (SSA) to individuals in the U.S. who have employment authorization.  The SSN is issued for life.

Generally, only non-citizens who are authorized to work in the U.S. by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can obtain the SSN.  The SSN is used to report an individual’s wages to the government and to determine a person’s eligibility for Social Security benefits.

Please keep in mind that it is very important to keep the Social Security Number secure and to avoid scams. A lost or compromised Social Security Number can lead to identity theft. Additional information about scams and identity theft can be found below in Item 11.

2. Who is eligible for a Social Security Number?

Individuals admitted to the U.S., to work or study at Princeton, in the following immigration classifications:

  • F-1 or J-1 students with on-campus employment | May apply 30 days before employment start date
  • F-1 students with CPT | May apply 30 days before employment start date
  • F-1 students with OPT May apply with valid EAD 
  • J-1 student with Academic Training | May apply 30 days before employment start date
  • J-1 Scholars, H-1B, O-1, and TN status holders
  • J-2, G-4 and L-2 status holders with an Employment Authorization Document (EAD)

NOTE: Individuals holding H-4 or F-2 visa status are NOT eligible for employment in the U.S. and therefore, are not eligible for the SSN

3. How do I apply for a Social Security Number?

To apply for a Social Security number you must appear in person at a SSA Office.  The Davis IC recommends applying at the Trenton, NJ office listed below, as we work closely with this particular office as other SSA offices may require additional documentation.

NOTE: F-1 and J-1 applicants should wait at least 10 days following the registration/validation of their SEVIS record by the Davis IC after check-in/arrival to apply with the SSA. Earlier applications risk delays and/or the SSA not yet being able to validate your status. Please reach out to your assigned advisor if you have any questions. 

You must present the following items:

  • Completed Social Security number application form (SS-5).  The SS-5 Form and additional information may be found at Social Security Administration
  • Your valid passport 
  • Print out of your electronic I-94 admission record that you can retrieve from from www.cbp.gov/I94
  • If in F-1 status, your original I-20 Form
  • If in J-1 visa status, your original DS-2019 Form
  • If in H-1B visa status, your H-1B approval notice (I-797)
  • For international scholars, your Princeton appointment letter from the Dean of the Faculty
  • If in J-2 visa status, the EAD you received from USCIS
  • Undergraduate and Graduate Students working on-campus employment letter
  • F-1 students with OPT approval must submit their EAD.  SSA will not process your application if the employment start date on the EAD has a future date.
  • F-1 students with CPT approval may apply no earlier than 30 days prior to their CPT start date.
4. Where do I get a letter verifying my on-campus employment for Social Security purposes?

UNDERGRADUATE STUDENTS who have on-campus employment should reach out to the Student Employment Office in the Financial Aid Office to request an Evidence of Employment Letter.  This letter will require that you obtain two signatures on it from: 1) Office of Student Employment and, 2) An International Student Advisor in the Davis IC. Please see information below on obtaining a signature from the Davis IC.* After you obtain the required signatures, you will submit this letter with your Social Security application and the other required documents as listed above.  At the time of application, the letter of employment may be no older than 3 months.              

GRADUATE STUDENTS who have an on-campus employment position must obtain an employment letter for social security purposes from your department or other on-campus employer.  Your employer can reference this suggested sample employment letter. The Davis IC must then sign your letter. Please see below for information on obtaining a signature from the Davis IC.* After you obtain the required signatures, submit this letter with your Social Security application and the other required documents as listed above.  At the time of application, the letter of employment may be no older than 3 months.

FULBRIGHT STUDENTS should reach out to their IIE, AMIDEAST or LASPAU program officer for letters related to the SSN.

SCHOLARS should present your appointment letter from the Office of the Dean of the Faculty (202 Nassau Hall).  If you do not have it, request a copy through your department.  You may be asked to submit a copy of your appointment letter to the SSA with the other required documents as listed above.

*OBTAINING THE DAVIS IC SIGNATURE (UNDERGRADUATE AND GRADUATE STUDENTS ONLY)

The Davis IC will be open for limited document pick-up and document signatures. Students must submit the SSN Student Document Request in TigerNav and have their request be approved BEFORE coming to the office. You will be required to upload a PDF scan of your original employment verification letter with original signature from your on-campus employer. Please see above for instructions on requesting your letter. 

To submit your request, go to TigerNav. Click “Login.” Use your university netid and password. In the left-hand column, click “Documentation” and then “SSN Student Document Request”. Click “Start a New Request” and complete/submit the form. After submission, you will receive additional instructions on next steps. Processing time is five (5) business days from receipt of a complete submission.  Incomplete submissions will result in delay in processing.

5. SSN denial letter

F-1 and J-1 students who are not eligible for a SSN, but would like to apply for a New Jersey driver's license should visit the SSA office to request a SSN denial letter indicating they are not eligible for the SSN. F-2 and H-4 dependents, who are NOT generally eligible for a SSN, may obtain a denial letter as well. J-2 dependents, who are eligible to apply for a SSN only if they obtain a J-2 work authorization, may also obtain a denial letter if they wish to apply for the driver's license. Note: Applying for a denial letter will not have any impact on your future SSN application. 

APPLICATION PROCESS WITH TRENTON SSA OFFICE - Fall 2021

At this time, you DO NOT need to attend an appointment to receive a denial letter. The SSA Office has instructed those applying for an SSN denial letter to mail in their request. The following should be included in your mailed application:

  • Completed SS-5 Application for a Social Security Number (The SS-5 Form and additional information may be found at Social Security Administration) - handwrite on top of SS-5 form "SSN Denial Letter Request"
  • Scanned copy of original passport biographical page (ensure that all information is legible)
  • Scanned copy of original I-20, DS-2019, or H-4 Approval notice

Completed applications should be mailed by the applicant to the Trenton office at:

ROEBLING MARKET
635 S CLINTON AVE
TRENTON, NJ 08611

NOTE: We recommend using a mailing method (UPS, FedEx, etc.) that includes tracking due to the sensitive nature of the documents included and to ensure delivery. Underneath the sender address on either the envelope or shipping label, please make the following notation in capital letters for sorting purposes at the SSA office: "PRINCETON UNIVERSITY STUDENT". The SSA office will do their best to process and mail your letter as quickly as possible. Please allow at least 3-4 weeks. You may reach out to the SSA office at 866-964-0026 for any questions. 

The NJ Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) office will accept the denial letter instead of a social security number.  For tax filing purposes, J-2s, F-2s, and H-4s who are not eligible for the SSN may apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). 

If you will require that a physical I-20 be issued for your SSN Denial Letter request, you may request it by submitting the Request for Physical I-20 on TigerNav found under the F-1 Student Services category in the left-hand navigation. You will require your netid and password to login. Please allow up to 5 business days for the processing of your document. 

6. Directions to the Social Security Office

Verify Office Hours by using 

Office Locator (enter 08611)

635 South Clinton Avenue 
Trenton, New Jersey 08611 (in the Roebling Market)
(Entrance to the office is on Elmer Street)

Special Note:  Some students and scholars have found it to be easier to travel with another applicants by Uber, train, or bus.  We recommend that you reach out to your international student Facebook group or through another means to arrange a travel partner.  

Directions by Train
You can take the Dinky train from Princeton to Princeton Junction.  At Princeton Junction switch to the New Jersey Transit southbound/outbound train (New York to Trenton) to Trenton.  Get off at the Trenton Rail Station (second stop).  Exit the Trenton station following the signs for Clinton Avenue and then turn left across the (metal) bridge to go down South Clinton.  Walk along South Clinton Avenue for approximately 10 minutes.  At Elmer Street, turn right.  The Social Security Administration is just behind the “Beauty Mart” which is in the Roebling Market shopping center on Elmer Street. 

If you prefer not to walk from the train station to the Social Security office, at the Trenton Rail Station you can take the Route 601 bus to the stop at Roebling and Chambers.  Look for Elmer Street.  The entrance to the office is on Elmer Street. 

Train fare to Trenton is $6.25 each way.  Approximate time to Trenton is 30-35 minutes. 

Directions by Bus 
You can take the New Jersey Transit bus Route 606 to the Trenton Rail Station and either walk from there or transfer to the Route 601 bus at the Trenton Rail Station. The Route 606 bus runs from the Princeton Shopping Center on North Harrison Street, along Nassau Street, then south on U.S. 206 to downtown Trenton. To take the 606 to Trenton, wait at the Palmer Square kiosk. The bus runs twice an hour between 8 am and 6 pm on weekdays, once per hour before and after that. The schedule is posted on the kiosk but in general departures are at :25 and :55 in the middle of the day, Monday through Friday. Tell the bus driver you need to transfer to the Route 601 bus. You will need to get off at the Trenton Rail Station and either walk or take the Route 601 bus to the stop at Roebling and Chambers. From the Trenton Rail Station, walk straight across the railway bridge along South Clinton Avenue for approximately 10 minutes. At Elmer Street, turn right. The Social Security Administration is just behind the “Beauty Mart” which is in the Roebling Market shopping center on Elmer Street. 

Bus fare to Trenton is $2.55 each way, exact amount required. Approximate time to downtown Trenton is 35-40 minutes. 

Directions by Car
Take Route 1 south past the Nassau Park and Quakerbridge Mall areas towards Trenton.  Remain right onto Route 129 South.  From Route 129 South turn right onto South Broad Street.  Turn right onto Hamilton Street, then turn right onto South Clinton Avenue and then right onto Elmer Street.  You may park in the Shopping Center on the left.  The office is at the end of Elmer Street. 

7. What do I do when I get into the Social Security Office?

When you enter the office, you will need to take a number from the kiosk and wait for the number to be called.  Be sure to have all of your documents in order.  When your number is called, go to the assigned window.  After you submit your application, you should request a receipt for your application. It may take 4-6 weeks for the SSA to issue you a number and mail you the social security card.  If there are any problems, tracking your application will be easier if you have a receipt.  If you do not receive a number within 8 weeks, please contact the SSA office to check on the status of your application. 

8. Important application tips

Name:  You must use your name exactly as it appears in your passport and other immigration documents.  Do not use a nickname or an English version of your name.  Should you marry, you can use a married name if the passport has been updated.

Address:  You must provide a complete local address on the application.  This is the address to which your social security card will be mailed.  Inaccurate or incomplete addresses may result in a lost social security card that cannot be delivered by mail.

Citizenship: You should check the box 'legal alien allowed to work"   

FOR MORE INFORMATION ABOUT SOCIAL SECURITY NUMBERS
Application for a Social Security card (SS-5 Form) 
Payroll Taxes & Treaty Benefits 

9. What is an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)?

An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is issued to individuals in the U.S. who do not qualify for a SSN but who need an identification number for tax filing purposes.  The IRS issues the ITIN to help individuals comply with the U.S. tax laws, and to provide a means to process and account for tax returns and payments.  The ITIN cannot be used for employment or for any purpose other than filing taxes.

Students who are not eligible for the SSN who are from countries that have Tax Treaties with the U.S. should apply for an ITIN, IF you have a grant/scholarship in your financial aid award AND your treaty excludes "Service Income" (work) or "Scholarship/Fellowship" (grants). 

10. ITIN Application Instructions

ITIN Application Instructions for students CLAIMING tax treaty benefits
ITIN Application Instructions for students NOT CLAIMING tax treaty benefits

If you will require that a physical I-20 be issued for your ITIN application, you may request it by submitting the Request for Physical I-20 on TigerNav found under the F-1 Student Services category in the left-hand navigation. You will require your netid and password to login. Please allow up to 5 business days for the processing of your document. 

11. Scams and Identity Theft

Scams

International students and scholars continue to be targets of scams in the U.S. In a scam, a perpetrator may try to trick you to obtain personal information (such as a Social Security Number), payment, or try to have you meet other demands. They may even threaten action such as deportation.

The following information is important to keep in mind to avoid a scam:

  • USCIS, IRS or any other government agency will never call requesting your Social Security Number or threaten lawsuits, imprisonment or ask for payment over the phone or in an email.
  • Scammers may try to communicate with you through various channels, including but not limited to text, calls, email, and through social media.
  • Use caution when securing housing as there has been reports of fraudulent realtors and landlords.
  • Scammers may spoof the caller ID to make it look like a legitimate phone call.
  • Do not give personal information or payment in response to an unexpected request.
  • Scammers often pressure you to act immediately so that you do not have time to think. If you receive a phone call that you believe to be a scam, you should not speak to them and hang up immediately. If you are unsure if it is a scam, please contact the Davis International Center for assistance and do not provide any information to them.

You may visit USCIS’s website to see common scams as well as the Federal Trade Commission’s website for more information.

Identity Theft

Unauthorized knowledge of personal identifying information such as a Social Security Number can lead to Identity Theft. Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal identifying information, such as your name, social security number, or credit card number, without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes (Source: Information Security Office). Should you suspect that you are a victim of identity theft, you should report it to Public Safety or your local police agency in addition to taking the applicable actions on this page.

You may also see the recorded Hands-on Tips for Preventing Identity Theft webinar by the Information Security Office for additional information as well as the Federal Trade Commission’s website.

Social Security Office - Trenton, NJ