In order to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN), you generally must have a job or a job offer. You must wait until you have been in the U.S. for at least 10 days before applying. Check the date on your admission record (I-94) for your exact arrival date.

If you do not qualify for an SSN because you are receiving a stipend or a taxable scholarship, but are not employed, you should apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) instead.

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. The number is issued to an individual by the Social Security Administration, an independent agency of the United States government. Its primary purpose is to track individuals for Social Security purposes, but, is also used to track wages and reporting of income to the government.

The SSN assigned to you when you apply is your number for your entire life. If you return to the U.S. in the future, you will keep the same SSN.

Your Social Security card is not an identity card and should not be used in everyday situations. You should not carry your card with you. Keep it in a safe place. To learn about identity theft, please read our information on Safety.

Required Documents

Important: All documents submitted must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. SSA cannot accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents.

Exchange Visitors

J-1 Scholars J-2 with Work Authorization

H-1B, E-3 or O-1 Employees


Social Security Office Location and Hours

Search The Social Security Website for a convenient office location.

The closest Social Security Administration Office to the Washington University campuses is on 25 N Oaks Plaza, St. Louis, MO 63121. The office can be reached by Metrolink by taking the Red Line to the UMSL-South Campus stop and walking East bound for approximately one mile.  This office among others can be reached by car. Consult the Field Office Locator for more options.

This office is open from 9:00 am- 4:00 pm You may make an appointment, but it is not required. Visitors without appointments will need to check in electronically near the entrance. You will be served by number. The busiest times are Mondays and the first week of each month. Walk-in visitors will be served more quickly if they avoid visiting the office at these busy times.

Processing Time

You can expect the processing of your application to take about two to four weeks. You will then receive your Social Security card in the mail.

Important Info About the SSN

Be careful with your Social Security card and number to prevent theft! Keep your card in a safe place. Do not carry your card with you. Also, be aware that your Social Security card is not an identity card and that your number should not be used in everyday situations. Only give your number in official situations dealing directly with employment, banking, or taxes, and verify that your number will be kept confidential. If you suspect fraud, report it to the Social Security Administration immediately.

For More Information

Helpful information is available on the Social Security Administration’s website or you can call on business days between 7:00 am-7:00 pm at 1-800-772-1213.

If you encounter problems, contact your international advisor at the OISS.