Social Security Card Information for International Scholars

There are many different reasons why you may need to get a Social Security Card during your time at UC Davis, which includes different needs and policies for International Scholars. SISS staff is here to help answer any questions you may have in understanding how to navigate the system as a foreign national.

If you are an International Student, please refer to the page specifically about Social Security Cards for International Students.

Applying for a Social Security Card

Anyone who receives income from a U.S. source must have a Social Security card with a Social Security number (SSN). The number is optional for J-1 scholars who do not receive income from a U.S. source. All applicants should wait a minimum of 10 days after arrival in the U.S. before applying for an SSN.

Application forms are available at the Social Security website. To obtain a Social Security number, J-1 international scholars and other non-immigrant employees must complete the Application to Obtain a Social Security Card and present it at the social security office, along with the original documents listed below, and copies of those documents that the social security official can keep:

  • A valid passport;
  • I-94 record
  • DS-2019 (J-1 scholars) or I-797 Approval Notice (H-1B, TN, E-3, O-1 scholars);
  • The Invitation Letter or Letter of Appointment from your department at UC Davis

Social Security Office Locations

Applications for Social Security cards may be made in person at the following Social Security Offices:

  • Yolo County Residents should go to the West Sacramento office (Davis and Woodland are in Yolo County).
  • Sacramento County Residents should go to the Sacramento office.
Yolo County Office Sacramento County Office

For directions to the office nearest you, go to the Social Security website and click on Find an Office. You will get the location, a map and the hours the office is open.

Social Security Taxes

Although you need a Social Security number in order to be employed, J-1 scholars may be excluded from Social Security taxes according to the Mutual Educational and Cultural Exchange Act of 1961. This means that it is possible that neither you nor your employer has to make Social Security payments. If you have a J-1 scholar status and you are paid by UC Davis, please contact our Payroll Office to find out if you will be required to have Social Security deductions from your paycheck. Please do this PRIOR to your first paycheck.

J-2 Dependents

J-2 dependents are not eligible for an SSN unless they have applied for an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) and received a work permit card. The EAD is a work permit that can be granted by the USCIS. Please refer to Work Authorization for J-2 Dependents for instructions and information about obtaining a permit.

For J-2 dependents who do not have work authorization, it is possible to apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN), which is a nine-digit number issued by the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to individuals who are not eligible for an SSN. This number is sometimes useful for other identification purposes. If a J-2 dependent needs an ITIN, refer to the IRS information.