Social Security Number 


What is a Social Security Number?

In the United States, a Social Security number (SSN) is a nine-digit number issued to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and temporary (working) residents. Although its primary purpose is to track individuals for Social Security purposes, the Social Security number has become a de facto national identification number for taxation and other purposes.

Do I need a Social Security Number?

If you plan to work in the US, you should apply as early as possible after your arrive in the US as it can take several weeks for a Social Security card to be issued. Social Security Numbers cannot be requested from abroad.

Note: Although often requested, SSNs are NOT required to apply for a driver’s license, to open a bank account, rent an apartment, or obtain a cell phone.  International students need to be assertive and remind these offices the law does not require an SSN for any of these services.

Requirements to apply 

F-1 Students

F-1 Students (may only apply for an SSN if they have an offer of employment)

  • Print the F-1 SSN Memo
  • Have your UNCW employer sign the F-1 SSN Memo 
  • Once the form is signed by your UNCW employer, have the form signed by the Office of International Programs. Click here to schedule an appointment.
  • Take all immigration documents (passport, I-20 and I-94*) along with the completed F-1 SSN Memo to the Social Security Office. * You can print your I-94 from this website:  

J-1 Students/Scholars

  • Meet with your International Student Adviser (in the Office of International Programs) to obtain a Social Security Memo before applying for an SSN. Click here to schedule an appointment.
  • Take all immigration documents (passport, DS-2019 and I-94*) along with the completed J-1 SSN Memo to the Social Security Office. * You can print your I-94 from this website:

Social Security Office
Phone number: 1-866-964-6227
Hours: Monday-Friday 9 am - 4 pm (12 pm on Wednesdays)
Address:  1528 South 16th Street

Important Tips

  • Be sure to ask for a receipt showing you applied for an SSN.  To obtain your SSN, you can return to the Social Security Office the following day with this receipt and your passport and be given your SSN.  Your Social Security card, however, will arrive in the mail in about two weeks.
  • Visit the Social Security Office on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays for quicker service.  Also, avoid the start and the end of the month as those are peak times.
  • If you have issues with your application, speak with the Office of International Programs as we can work with the Office Manager to clarify issues / rectify problems.