SSN or ITIN for Taxes

If you worked and earned money from a US source in the past year, you will need a Social Security Number (SSN) in order to file your tax return.

If you did not work and earn any money from a US source in the past year, you do not need a Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).

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What is the Social Security Number (SSN)?

The Social Security Number (SSN) is a unique nine-digit number used for indivividual identification and tax purposes. Non-citizens authorized to work in the United States by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) can get a Social Security number. Social Security numbers are used to report a person’s wages to the government and to determine a person’s eligibility for Social Security benefits.

You can apply for a Social Security number by filling out a form and visiting the Social Security office. Once you have completed your application, you will receive a social security card that has your number on it. Do not share this number with anyone.

Am I eligible for a Social Security number?

You are eligible for an Social Security number if:

How to apply for the SSN

Fill out the Social Security application using the instructions provided on the form. We recommend that you list your name exactly as it appears on your passport.

  1. Go to the online SSN Application webpage
    1. Please take your time and answer all the questions carefully. 
  2. Complete the application and print/take a photo of the green screen at the end of the online application, which confirms your applications was successfully completed. Save this number!
  3. Schedule an appointment online.
  4. Go to a Social Security office on your appointment date. Bring the following original documents with you:
    1. Printout of your green screen page with confirmation number
    2. All your original legal status documents, including your I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1), passport and visa (and Employment Authorization Document (EAD), if you have one)
    3. Printed copy of your most recent I-94
    4. The signed DSO/ARO SSN letter that we have attached to your work authorization approval email
    5. Your UC ID
    6. The completed and signed SS-5 Application for a Social Security Card form. 


Your Full Name MUST appear on your home mailbox. Otherwise, the postal worker will not leave your SSN in the mail.

The following is an example of the correct way to write a U.S. mailing address

Joe Bearcat (your name as it appears on your passport)

1234 University Street, Apt. ABC 

Cincinnati, OH 45220

If you have approved work authorization (such as CPT, OPT, or Academic Training), you can begin working without an SSN for up to 30 days. You’ll need to provide your employer with your SSN card as soon as it arrives. Some employers are unsure of the rules and regulations regarding working before they’ve received your SSN. You can provide them with the following links, and our office’s contact information if they have any questions.

For your SSN application, your name MUST appear as it is written in your passport. If you do not have a last name (surname) in your passport, then you need to write it as follows:

  • First Name: Unknown
  • Last Name: Your first/given name

From the Social Security Administration's website:

"If there is a problem with your Social Security number or account, [the SSA] will mail you a letter. Generally, [the SSA] will only contact you if you have requested a call or have ongoing business with us, but [the SSA] will never:

  • Threaten you with arrest of legal action.
  • Suspend your Social Security number (SSN).
  • Demand immediate payment from you.
  • Require payment by cash, gift card, pre-paid debit card, internet currency, or wire transfer.
  • Ask for gift card numbers over the phone or that you wire or mail cash.
  • Ask for personal details or banking information to give you a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA).

Fraudsters pretend to be government employees and claim your identity has been stolen or that there is another problem with your SSN, account, or benefits. These criminals continue to evolve and find new ways to steal your money and personal information.

To learn more about Social Security related scams go to the Protect Yourself from Social Security Scams and Scam Alert | Office of the Inspector General pages.

If you receive a questionable call, hang up, and report the call to [the SSA's] Office of the Inspector General."

No, the SSN is meant to stay with you for life and will never change.

If you are an F-1 student and have not been in the US for 5 years you should not be paying Social Security or Medicare Taxes until year 6. Your employer should refer to IRS Publication 515 (page 8 “Foreign Persons”, and page 36 “Special Instructions for Form W-4”), and Publication 519.

In particular, read pages 3-4 (general information on Resident v Non-Resident Alien for Tax Purposes) and pages 5-6 (Students). After reading that, they will want to know what the difference between a Resident Alien and Non-Resident Alien is and how to calculate this. This can also be found in Publication 519 on Page 4-5 with the standard Substantial Presence Test. Look on page 6 for exempt individuals where they will find the five year rule clearly stated and its application to F-1 students.

If they are unsure how or unwilling to assist you and you still wish to get Social Security and Medicare Taxes refunded, you can click on the "apply for a refund" button below.

Apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN)

An ITIN would be issued to any individual who is not eligible to work in the United States, but may need a tax ID number to be paid an honorarium, certain scholarships or awards, or being claimed on a tax return as a dependent (not all dependents qualify).

There are two ways that you can apply for an ITIN:

  1. The applicant can appear in person at a local IRS office with his or her passport and appropriate documentation and fill out a form W-7. The W-7 is then processed by the IRS and the ITIN is issued in about 6 weeks.
  2. If you are a Non-Resident Alien for tax purposes, use Sprintax Returns. It will issue you the completed forms and instructions.

We do not recommend sending your original passport and Immigration documents to the IRS when applying for an ITIN.  Make an appointment with a local IRS office to obtain certified photocopies and use those in your mailed application.

SSN or ITIN for Dependents

Dependents who are being claimed as deductions on an income tax report must have a SSN or an ITIN. In most cases, a dependent can only be claimed on a Resident Alien tax report. However, spouses from Canada, Mexico, Korea, Japan and India (students, not researchers from India) may be eligible to be claimed on a Non-Resident Alien return. 

If using Sprintax, it will assist you in applying for an ITIN for dependents that qualify.

Dependents who need an SSN / ITIN:

  • F-2 being claimed on a tax report.
  • J-2 with NO work authorization but being claimed on a tax report.
  • H-4 being claimed on a tax report.
  • T-D being claimed on a tax report.

Dependents who do not need an SSN / ITIN:

  • F-1, F-2, J-1 and J-2 dependents who did not earn any US income in 2023 and are filing Form 8843 only