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The Social Security system is a plan for U.S. workers for disability and retirement benefits. Most U.S. employees pay into the system through “FICA” (Federal Insurance Compensation Act) deductions from their paychecks.  Many foreign students present in the U. S. in F-1 or J-1 status will be exempt from this tax.  However, all persons who work (including TA’s and RA’s) in the U.S. are required to obtain a Social Security number for tax withholding and reporting purposes.

SSN Handout 2020

Students and scholars who will be employed in the United States will apply for a social security number through the Social Security Administration. The closest office is in Durham. The Social Security number is printed on the front of the Social Security card issued by the agency.  When you receive your Social Security number, you should notify ISSS, the department employing you, and your bank.  The Social Security number is a private identification number.  Be very cautious to whom you give this number.  Do not give your number to telemarketers or solicitors.

Students in F-1 and J-1 immigration status will not be eligible for a social security number unless they have obtained an on-campus job offer. Students in F-1 or J-1 immigration status should request a letter from ISSS verifying student status before applying for the Social Security number.  J-1 students sponsored by organizations other than UNC-CH should obtain a letter from their sponsor verifying employment eligibility.  The Social Security office is a twenty-minute drive from UNC.

Please take the following documents with you when you apply for the SSN:

  • Passport
  • Form I-94 (print your automated Form I-94 from
  • F-1 students: Form I-20; letter from on-campus employer verifying employment or job offer; and letter from ISSS
    • To receive the letter from ISSS, please submit a copy of your letter from the on-campus employer for verification.
  • J-1 students: Form DS 2019; letter from J program sponsor; and letter from on-campus employer verifying employment or job offer
  • Letter signed by ISSS staff (For F-1 and J-1 only)
  • Social Security Application