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Social Security Number

If you will receive U.S. sourced income, you will need to apply for a Social Security number (SSN).  The SSN is a unique identification number that is used to keep track of your earnings, to collect social security benefits, and to receive some other government services. Other businesses and credit companies may also require your number.

Since the SSN number is your identity, it is very important to keep the number and the card safe to prevent identity theft.  Caltech Security provides extensive information on preventing identity theft.  Once you receive your SSN card, memorize the number and store it safely, along with your other important documents.  Do not carry the card in your wallet.  Landlords (property managers) and some business (such as cell phone providers) may request your SSN.  Be sure you verify why the number is needed and use discretion when giving it out.  If you have an SSN from a previous visit to the United States, the number remains valid.  If you have lost your card, you can apply for a replacement.

If you are in F or J status, your international advisor must record your arrival in the United States in SEVIS before you can apply for an SSN.  You should wait 5 business days after completing your check-in with your international advisor to ensure that your record of arrival has reached the Social Security Administration database.  It normally takes three to six weeks to process an SSN application.

Students.  You will receive detailed instructions about your SSN application from ISP during your immigration check-in.

Caltech and JPL Scholars.  Do not apply for the SSN before your check-in at Human Resources or with the Faculty Records Office. 

If Human Resources provides you with SSN appliation assistance, your Social Security card will be mailed to Caltech.  Once it is received, you will be contacted so that you can pick it up from Human Resources. While you are waiting for your SSN application to be processed, you will receive pay from Caltech.

Dependents.  Dependents may be able to able to obtain an SSN once they are eligible to work in the United States.  For example a J-2 spouse who has an EAD may apply for an SSN.  

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN).  If you or your dependents are not eligible for the SSN but you have a tax reporting obligation, you must apply for an ITIN.  If you or your dependents need an ITIN, you may be eligible to apply for an ITIN before you file your taxes or at the same time as you submit your tax filings.  Procurement Services has General ITIN Information about the ITIN application process on their website, under the Vendor and Supplier Guides.  See also the IRS website for further information.     

SSN Application.  The Pasadena branch of the Social Security Administration is located near to the Caltech campus. You must apply in person with the following:

  • SSN application
  • Passport and immigration documents
  • Your employment/appointment or admission letter, if employment is granted as part of admission