Social Security and Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers

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.

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.

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 I-20 Form
  • If in J-1 visa status, your 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 go to the Student Employment Office in the Financial Aid Office (220 Morrison Hall) 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. 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. Bring this letter for 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.

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. 

To apply for a denial letter, you must visit the SSA office. Please make sure to bring your passport, an I-20/DS-2019, or H-4 approval notice. All documents must be original. 

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). 

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)

Annual Bus Trip to the Social Security:  Each year during the month of September, the Davis IC arranges a free bus trip to the Social Security Office.  Watch our events page in August or September for more information or email us for details.

Special Note:  If you miss the annual bus trip to the Social Security Office, you will need to go on your own.  Some students have found it to be easier to travel with another student 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. More information about ITIN

Applying for an ITIN
Payroll Taxes & Treaty Benefits

Social Security Office - Trenton, NJ