Social Security Number

What is a Social Security Card?

A Social Security Card provides a unique identification number that allows the United States government to monitor and tax wages earned by employees in the U.S.

Please note that a Social Security Card does not grant employment authorization, it simply provides a unique identifying number to allow employers to pay wages and deduct the appropriate taxes on behalf of the U.S. government. Each different immigration classification has varying rules regarding possible employment authorization.


You must be physically present in the U.S. in an immigration classification that permits employment. Rhodes College international students in F-1 status must have secured on-campus employment or must have received work authorization for off-campus employment.

In order to apply for a Social Security Number you will need to:

  • Secure employment
  • Wait at least two weeks from the date on your I-94 card to apply and after the first week of classes if you are a new international student
  • Complete the Employment Verification Letter found in the International Student Employment Packet
  • Prepare your Application for a Social Security Number (Passport, Form I-94, Form I-20, Employment Verification Letter, Completed Form SS5, which is available at
  • Go in person to the The Social Security Administration in Memphis. Visit for the most up to date business hours and location.

Follow these Easy Steps at the Social Security Administration Office:

  1. Arrive Prepared.  Bring all of the above documents.
  2. Plan your time carefully.  Don't expect to get your SSN on a one-hour lunch break.  Be prepared for long lines and considerable waits. If you are rushed, it is easy to become impatient and frustrated with the process.
  3. Remain calm and polite.  Usually, front desk staff are willing to work with customers as long as communications remain civil.  Losing your temper, yelling, or other displays of anger rarely achieve progress.  However it is appropriate to ask to speak with a manager or supervisor if you believe it would help the situation.
  4. When all else fails, leave and come back later with reinforcements.  If no one can help you at the time you visit a business or agency, come back when a higher-level authority is available;  If the Buckman Center can be of assistance, ask for an official letter on your behalf.

Identity Theft and Your Social Security Number

Be careful with your Social Security card and number. Show your card to your employer when you start a job so your records are correct. Provide your Social Security number to your financial institution(s) for tax reporting purposes. Keep your card and any other document that shows your Social Security number on it in a safe place. DO NOT routinely carry your card or other documents that display your number.

Receiving Your Social Security Card and Number

The Social Security Administration may need some time to verify your current immigration status before they can issue a Social Security card. In most cases, a Social Security card should be mailed to the address you listed on your application form within 14 business days. If you do not receive a Social Security card within 30-60 days, you should contact the Social Security Administration via to inquire about the status of your pending application.