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What is a Social Security Number?

The Social Security Administration issues Social Security Numbers to all who are work-eligible as a way to identify participants, including taxpayers, in the federal government's social security program, which provides retirement and disability benefits to workers and their families.

Do I need an SSN?

Yes, if you are going to work in the United States, either on-campus or with off-campus work authorization, you must obtain a Social Security Number.

Your employer will withhold Social Security taxes from your paycheck and submit them to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), which credits each payment to your Social Security account. You may start working on-campus at SUNY Potsdam without a SSN, but you must provide your SSN to your employer upon receiving your card.

You will also need a SSN if you wish to open up a bank account and in some instances, phone companies and utility companies will require an SSN to set up an account.

Am I eligible for an SSN?

If you hold F-1 visa status, you are eligible to apply for an SSN if you meet at least one of the following criteria, and can provide proof of employment (see IEP staff, Sisson Hall, for details).

  • you are currently working on campus
  • you have been offered an on-campus job

How do I apply?

Read our handout, SSN Information Handout (PDF), to keep track of application status.

To apply for a Social Security number:

  1. Find a non-work study job on-campus (PACES dining services) and have your employer complete a job offer letter (PDF), also available in the IEP office, Sisson Hall. The Social Security Administration requires this letter when you apply for your SSN.
  2. Come to the IEP offices, Sisson Hall, to discuss your eligibility for a SSN. If you are eligible, IEP staff will provide you with a letter certifying that you have the necessary immigration status and work authorization to be eligible for an SSN. The Social Security Administration requires this letter when you apply for your SSN.
  3. After you have been in the U.S. for AT LEAST 10 days, take the documents listed below to the Social Security Administration Office in Ogdensburg. (When you come to the IEP offices for your certification letter, IEP staff will provide you with directions to this office.)
  • Completed job offer letter from prospective employer
  • IEP Certification of your immigration status and work authorization
  • Valid I-20
  • Valid passport (Canadians may use driver's license AND birth certificate)
  • Visa (Canadians do NOT have a visa)
  • I-94 (small, white arrival/departure card stapled in your passport or to your I-20)
  1. If you have successfully submitted your social security application along with all the required documentation mentioned above, you will receive your number and card in 2-4 weeks. Once you receive your card, please take it to the administrator in the department that is employing you.

Contacting the Social Security Administration

For more information, visit the SSA website at or call toll-free 1-800-772-1213 (for the deaf or hard of hearing, call the TTY number, 1-800-325-0778). They can answer specific questions and provide information by automated phone service 24 hours a day. To contact our local SSA office, please see below.

Social Security Administration
818 Commerce Park Drive
Ogdensburg, New York 13669
Telephone: (315) 393-1417
Office Hours: Monday - Friday: 9 a.m. - 4 p.m.
Closed on legal U.S. Holidays