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 (ID) 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.
You will receive detailed instructions about your SSN application from ISP during your immigration check-in.
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 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.
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. See the IRS website for further information.