How can an F1 student get a social security number?

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Yes, anyone on a student visa can get an SSN if he or she finds on-campus employment. Contact your international admissions / student services (IA/ISS) office to obtain a letter saying you're authorized to work on campus. For this you usually have to maintain a minimum number of enrolled units or credits (usually 9-12). Then, contact your on-campus employer and give them the letter.

Your IA/ISS can also provide you with a Social Security Number Letter saying that you have accepted legal employment on campus. Take this letter along with your passport/visa and I-20 to the SSN office and apply.

The SSN is used primarily for tax purposes and also as your credit identification. It used to be that you could get an SSN if you planned to apply for a driver's license (since the DMV requires an SSN). But, since SEVIS, it's become a lot stricter. The BCIS is not going to allow you to get an SSN just so you can get a driver's license. You need to get employed... legally.
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