The U.S. Social Security Number (SSN) is generated by the branch of government known as the Social Security Administration (SSA) and not GEC. GEC cannot guarantee that an application will be processed and a card received. We have no control over the SSA offices.

If you have never been a participant on a J-1 visa (or other applicable visa program) before, you will need to apply for a SSN after you arrive in the U.S. in order to work legally. The SSN is an important identification form and is needed for tax purposes.

You must apply in person

If you need directions to the closest SSA go to, click “Contact US”, and then click “Find an Office.” Enter your zip code and click “Locate” to give you the address. You can click “Get Map and Directions” to help you navigate to the nearest SSA office. Alternatively, you can call Social Security’s toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213.

The documents that you will need to present to the Social Security Officer include:

  • Passport with J-1 visa
  • A printout of the I-94 found at
  • DS-2019 Form
  • Completed Social Security application form
  • Sponsor letter from GEC

In order to make the process smoother, follow these five steps:

  • Wait to apply for your SSN until 5-7 days after you arrive in the United States. You may want to apply for a SSN right away, but be patient. Following this step can save you 20 or more days of processing time. These ten days allow time for all the government databases to verify your immigration status.
  • Make sure you validate your SEVIS program within the required timeframe and have been in active status for at least two days.
  • Check your forms. You should check all your forms to make sure your information is correct. This is called data integrity. Data integrity is very important because if you have different information on different forms, it will only cause more delays.
  • Bring all your original documents. When you go to the SSA, remember to bring all your original paperwork. No photocopies or notarized copies of documents will be accepted.
  • Don’t wait too long to apply: While you shouldn’t rush to get a SSN, waiting too long can also be a problem. Verification issues can create significant delays in getting a SSN; which, if you are to begin working, could delay or even jeopardize your employment opportunity. To avoid this, do not wait too long to begin the application process. Begin as soon you are eligible. Your application with SSA will be refused if you are within 30 days of your program end date.

The application process generally takes between 4-6 weeks. SSA must verify all applications through the Department of Homeland Security Verification Information System. You may request a receipt at the SSA office stating that you have applied. You may be asked to show your receipt indicating that you have applied. Keep it with your important documents until your card arrives.

Occasionally, delays occur during the application process. If your name is not located in the national database, your documents will be sent to another location for validation. The validation process can take anywhere from two weeks to three months. This extra verification process is something that is required by the Department of Homeland Security, and unfortunately, GEC cannot expedite this process.

If you have participated in a J-1 program before, the SSN you were issued during that program will remain your unique number throughout your life. You do not have to reapply for a new card during future programs, but it is only valid with proper DHS authorization as indicated on the actual card. If you do not have your physical Social Security card and you do not remember your SSN, you can visit any SSA office to replace your card. To find an office near you, please visit:

Once you receive your SSN, you are required to show it to your employer in order to receive your paychecks and your end-of-year tax documents.