How do I obtain a Social Security Number?

If you are employed on-campus, or off-campus with appropriate CPT or OPT work authorization from OIS, you will need to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) by applying online *(application is found in the Manage benefits & information section) or visiting your local Social Security Administration (SSA) office. You should check with the Office of International Services in order to start this process.

When should I go to the SSA office?

SSA must verify your immigration status with the SEVIS database. It takes some time for the two federal databases to communicate the correct information about your immigration status. The normal processing time is approximately 10 business days. Therefore, OIS strongly recommends waiting at least 10 business days from time of entry into the US before applying for your SSN.

*Note: Applying prior to this time may result in the delay of issuing your SSN for up to three months!.

Where is the SSA office?

The nearest office is located at:
104 S. Halsted Street
Chicago Heights, IL 60411

What should I take to the SSA office?

  • Your passport
  • Your Form DS-2019 if in J-1 status, or Form I-20 if in F-1 status
  • Your Form I-797 if in H-1B status
  • Your EAD card if in J-2, F-1/OPT, or pending Permanent Residency
  • Your I-94 card
  • Letter of job offer addressed to student from employer/department
  • Letter from OIS if you are in F-1 or J-1 status (request this letter from OIS in advance.) F and J students must be enrolled full-time prior to requesting the OIS letter.

How do I request a SSA letter from OIS?

Please obtain the Student Request Form from our website. Complete the form and return it to in order to request a Social Security Letter.

Do I need a SSN to open a bank account?

U.S. financial institutions are required to verify the identity of every individual who opens a bank account. In compliance with federal regulations, all banks operating in the U.S. have established Customer Identification Programs (CIP) that they are to follow for anyone who seeks to open an account. While the specifics of the CIP may vary from one bank to another, Department of Treasury regulations found at 31 CFR § 103.121 set forth the following minimal information that the banks must obtain from you before allowing you to open an account:

  • Your name
  • Your date of birth
  • Your street address - no P.O. Box
  • An identification number

The regulations 31 CFR § 103.121(b)(i)A)(4)(ii) clarify that for a non-U.S. person the identification number shall be one or more of the following:

  • Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  • Passport Number and Country of Issuance
  • Alien Identification Card Number
  • Number and country of issuance of any other government-issued document evidencing nationality or residence and bearing a photograph or similar safeguard.

It is important to remember that banks establish their own customer identification programs and may ask for additional documentation than is described above because they are ultimately responsible for establishing the identity of their customers.

Can I apply for an Illinois Driver's License without a SSN?

A Social Security Number is not required to obtain a State of Illinois Drivers License. Internationals students (F-1, F-2, J-1, J-2, among others) in Illinois may obtain a Temporary Visitor Drivers License (TVDL) from various locations in the state. To apply, you will need to visit the Social Security Administration to request a letter stating that you are not eligible for an SSN, this is known as a Form L-676. If, however, you are eligible for a SSN, then you must apply for and receive the SSN before applying for a state driver's license.

For more information, visit the Social Security Administration web site: