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November 4, 2022
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International student in the US? You should get your SSN

As an international student coming to the US for school, there’s a lot you need to stay on top of. Here’s why getting your US Social Security number should be a top priority.

Three years ago, I arrived in the US to start my freshman year of college as an international student. Between figuring out my schedule, long nights in the library, and the culture shock from being on an entirely new continent, getting a US Social Security number (SSN) wasn’t very high on my priority list. But it should have been.

When I started Fizz in 2021, I needed to move off campus. The issue was that I couldn’t get approved for an apartment without an SSN. Managing the process of getting an SSN on the fly was a headache at a time when I wanted to be dealing with other, more important things. Here’s how you can go about getting your SSN so that you don’t find yourself in a similar situation.

What is an SSN?

SSN is short for Social Security number. It’s a unique nine-digit number assigned to all US citizens, temporary residents and visa holders. SSNs were originally used by the US Social Security Administration to track all individuals living in the US. Its purpose has since expanded to serve as a de facto national identification number. As a student, you'll typically need an SSN to:

  1. Open a bank account, get a credit card, or download Robinhood
  2. Work or intern in the US on or off campus.
  3. Get off campus housing
  4. Get a US Driver License or State ID (so that you no longer have to carry your passport around as a means of identification)

How do I get an SSN as an international student?

The easiest way to get started is to approach the person designated at your school for international students. In order to apply for a Social Security number, you must first complete a government form called SS-5. In addition to the SS-5 form, you will need to provide a copy of your visa and your passport. If you are an F-1 student, you must provide a letter from your school that identifies you and confirms your current school status.

Here’s where things can get tricky - you’ll also need a letter from a prospective employer. This is likely the most difficult part, as you must score a job in order to apply for an SSN. However, seeking on-campus employment is usually the easiest way to complete this step. Know that it’s worth doing so even if you don’t intend to continue working in the role after you’ve gotten your SSN. You can keep your SSN even if you leave the job.

The letter from your employer will have to include details about your place of work and the type of work you will be doing. Additionally, you will need a letter from your supervisor that describes your job, your start date, the number of hours you will be working, and contact information for your employer.

The process

When you have all of these documents ready, you will need to fax (yes, fax) all these documents to your local Social Security office. You can find a list of these offices here. To make this part of the process slightly less painful, I’d suggest you use MyFax, a free online tool.

Roughly 2-4 weeks after submitting your documents, you will receive a call or letter from a local Social Security Administration official with an appointment time. You will need to bring all the documents you already submitted via fax to the appointment. The appointment shouldn’t take longer than 20 minutes. After waiting another couple of weeks for the wheels of bureaucracy to churn, your should get your Social Security card the mail!

Getting your SSN is worth it  

It sounds like a lot - and honestly it kind of is. But trust me, it’s a good idea to get it out of the way early. You do not want to deal with the stress of finding out your dream internship or dream job wants you to provide your SSN by tomorrow, or that the landlord of your new apartment won’t accept your application without it.

Having an SSN also helps when it comes to building for your financial future. Most bank accounts, loans, and credit cards require you to submit your SSN when you open them or apply for them. Without an SSN, it’s difficult to budget, build credit, invest, save, and manage your money.

Luckily, Fizz has a plan for all these issues. Fizz can help international students with budgeting, credit, and learning more about finance - and it’s available to international students whether you have an SSN or not! While you have the option to use your SSN when signing up for Fizz, you can also use your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). This is a number that you’ll receive the first time you file taxes in the US.

Fizz is here to help you build for your financial future - especially if you’re an international student like I was just a few short years ago. So don’t wait much longer. Get your SSN and join the Fizz waitlist to be one of the first Fizz members on your campus!

Join Fizz, the debit card for college students
bio

Carlo Köbe

Carlo is Fizz's co-founder and CEO. When he's not busy keeping Fizz up and running, he likes to contribute his thoughts to the Fizz blog.

Back
November 4, 2022
Tips

International student in the US? You should get your SSN

Fizz is the credit card for college students

As an international student coming to the US for school, there’s a lot you need to stay on top of. Here’s why getting your US Social Security number should be a top priority.

Three years ago, I arrived in the US to start my freshman year of college as an international student. Between figuring out my schedule, long nights in the library, and the culture shock from being on an entirely new continent, getting a US Social Security number (SSN) wasn’t very high on my priority list. But it should have been.

When I started Fizz in 2021, I needed to move off campus. The issue was that I couldn’t get approved for an apartment without an SSN. Managing the process of getting an SSN on the fly was a headache at a time when I wanted to be dealing with other, more important things. Here’s how you can go about getting your SSN so that you don’t find yourself in a similar situation.

What is an SSN?

SSN is short for Social Security number. It’s a unique nine-digit number assigned to all US citizens, temporary residents and visa holders. SSNs were originally used by the US Social Security Administration to track all individuals living in the US. Its purpose has since expanded to serve as a de facto national identification number. As a student, you'll typically need an SSN to:

  1. Open a bank account, get a credit card, or download Robinhood
  2. Work or intern in the US on or off campus.
  3. Get off campus housing
  4. Get a US Driver License or State ID (so that you no longer have to carry your passport around as a means of identification)

How do I get an SSN as an international student?

The easiest way to get started is to approach the person designated at your school for international students. In order to apply for a Social Security number, you must first complete a government form called SS-5. In addition to the SS-5 form, you will need to provide a copy of your visa and your passport. If you are an F-1 student, you must provide a letter from your school that identifies you and confirms your current school status.

Here’s where things can get tricky - you’ll also need a letter from a prospective employer. This is likely the most difficult part, as you must score a job in order to apply for an SSN. However, seeking on-campus employment is usually the easiest way to complete this step. Know that it’s worth doing so even if you don’t intend to continue working in the role after you’ve gotten your SSN. You can keep your SSN even if you leave the job.

The letter from your employer will have to include details about your place of work and the type of work you will be doing. Additionally, you will need a letter from your supervisor that describes your job, your start date, the number of hours you will be working, and contact information for your employer.

The process

When you have all of these documents ready, you will need to fax (yes, fax) all these documents to your local Social Security office. You can find a list of these offices here. To make this part of the process slightly less painful, I’d suggest you use MyFax, a free online tool.

Roughly 2-4 weeks after submitting your documents, you will receive a call or letter from a local Social Security Administration official with an appointment time. You will need to bring all the documents you already submitted via fax to the appointment. The appointment shouldn’t take longer than 20 minutes. After waiting another couple of weeks for the wheels of bureaucracy to churn, your should get your Social Security card the mail!

Getting your SSN is worth it  

It sounds like a lot - and honestly it kind of is. But trust me, it’s a good idea to get it out of the way early. You do not want to deal with the stress of finding out your dream internship or dream job wants you to provide your SSN by tomorrow, or that the landlord of your new apartment won’t accept your application without it.

Having an SSN also helps when it comes to building for your financial future. Most bank accounts, loans, and credit cards require you to submit your SSN when you open them or apply for them. Without an SSN, it’s difficult to budget, build credit, invest, save, and manage your money.

Luckily, Fizz has a plan for all these issues. Fizz can help international students with budgeting, credit, and learning more about finance - and it’s available to international students whether you have an SSN or not! While you have the option to use your SSN when signing up for Fizz, you can also use your Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). This is a number that you’ll receive the first time you file taxes in the US.

Fizz is here to help you build for your financial future - especially if you’re an international student like I was just a few short years ago. So don’t wait much longer. Get your SSN and join the Fizz waitlist to be one of the first Fizz members on your campus!

Join Fizz, the debit card for college students
bio

Carlo Köbe

Carlo is Fizz's co-founder and CEO. When he's not busy keeping Fizz up and running, he likes to contribute his thoughts to the Fizz blog.

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