A Social Security number (SSN) is a taxpayer identification number issued by the Social Security Administration. Individuals who are paid in the US must have a SSN to file an income tax return. Individuals who are not paid in the US but who are in a visa status that permits certain types of employment (e.g. J-1, F-1, or J-2 with EAD) are advised to obtain a SSN.
An Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) is used by individuals who are not eligible for an SSN if they are required to file a tax return. Individuals who have SSNs or are eligible for SSNs should not apply for an ITIN.
A Social Security number (SSN) is a taxpayer identification number issued by the Social Security Administration. It does not represent permission to work and it is not proof of US citizenship or permanent residence. Individuals who are paid in the US must have a SSN to file an income tax return. Individuals who are not paid in the US but who are in a visa status that permits certain types of employment (e.g. J-1, F-1, or J-2 with EAD) are advised to obtain a SSN. Once obtained, a SSN remains valid and therefore may be used during future visits to the US.
New J-1 Scholars, Please Note: You must register with the ISchO so we can validate your J-1 SEVIS record before you apply for a Social Security Number.
In accordance with the recent regulatory change allowing for digital signatures and electronic transmission of DS-2019s, the Social Security Administration (SSA) has confirmed that it will accept digitally signed and electronically transmitted or downloaded DS-2019s. SSA has recently issued this Emergency Memo (EM) to all Social Security field offices instructing them to accept digital signatures on Forms DS-2019 as part of exchange visitors’ SSN applications. If you experience any issues with a digital signature on your DS-2019 upon your SSN application, please show this memo to the SSA field officer.
To obtain a new or replacement SSN, you must apply online via the Online Social Security Number Application. After the application is submitted online, you must visit your local Social Security Administration Office in-person (see area locations below) with your supporting documentation within 45 calendar days. Applications require that you show your original visa documentation including your passport, I-94 admission record from most recent entry into the US, and Form DS-2019 (or other supporting documents). Normally, it takes approximately three to six weeks from the date of application for the Social Security card to be mailed to you.
When you receive your SSN, report it to MIT Payroll by calling the HR Payroll service team at 617-253-4255 or visiting the service desk located at NE49-4097 (hours 8:30am to 4:30pm), 600 Technology Square.
Individuals employed in the US pay a 7.65% "F.I.C.A." tax, which includes the Social Security and Medicare taxes. Employers automatically withhold this tax from their employees' paychecks. There are some exemptions related to immigration and tax status (see IRS Publication 519 for details). Some generalizations follow:
- J-1 and F-1 students should not have the Social Security or Medicare taxes withheld if they have been in the US for five calendar years or less.
- J-1 scholars are exempt from the Social Security and Medicare tax withholdings if they have been in the US for two years or less during the preceding five calendar years.
- Consultants who are not paid from a regular payroll system will not have this tax withheld from their payments but may be subject to the payment of this tax when they file their tax returns, if they are required to file as resident aliens.
Information about Social Security numbers can be found on the Social Security Administration website.
Take the 74 or 78 bus from Harvard Square Station. Get off at the stop at the intersection of Concord Ave and Fawcett Street.
Take the Green or Orange Line to North Station. The office is next to the TD Garden.
Individuals without employment authorization from US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) and/or individuals in certain visa statuses who have no taxable income are not eligible for a SSN. However, some may need an official identification number if they are nonresidents required to file an income tax return or are filing a tax return only to claim a refund (e.g. a B-1 or WB visitor who was paid an honorarium). Dependent spouses and children who wish to be claimed as exemptions on US tax returns but who are not eligible for SSNs must obtain ITINs.
An ITIN is not required to complete a Form 8843. ITINs are intended for tax use only and can be obtained by filing Form W-7 with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). An ITIN does not represent permission to work and is not proof of US citizenship or permanent residence.
Do not apply for an ITIN if you have a SSN or are eligible for a SSN.* If you obtain an ITIN and subsequently are granted work authorization from USCIS, you will need to apply for a SSN. Use the SSN on all future tax returns, and notify the IRS so they can retire your ITIN.
*This includes J-1 scholars and individuals in F-1 with EAD, H-1B, TN, and O-1 status.
ITIN application forms (Form W-7) may be downloaded from the IRS website or obtained at the Boston IRS office, JFK Building, Government Center, 15 New Sudbury Street, Boston, MA. Hours: Monday - Friday, 8:30 am to 4:30 pm; Telephone: (617) 316-2850.
The Sprintax Returns tax preparation software will automatically generate Form W-7 for nonresident aliens who require ITINs for their dependents in order to claim them on their tax returns.
If you enclose Form W-7, requesting ITINs for family members, with your tax return (Form 1040NR), you have two options for submitting your documents to the IRS:
- Attach your dependents' original passports (not recommended) or certified copies from the "issuing agency" of the passport.*
*The issuing agency is the Embassy or Consulate of the passport country.
*Certified copies include the picture/biographical page and the US visa page of your passport.
*Notarized copies and apostille documents are NOT acceptable for W-7 purposes.
- You must attach Form W-7 to the front of your tax return, and mail it to the following address. After your Form W-7 has been processed, the IRS will assign an ITIN and process the tax return.
Internal Revenue Service
P.O. Box 149342
Austin, TX 78714-9342
Be sure to read the W-7 filing instructions to make sure you send everything you need to request an ITIN.
- You may use a Certifying Acceptance Agent (CAA) at a designated Taxpayer Assistance Center (TAC) location.
- Service at TACs is by appointment only. Appointments can be scheduled by calling 844-545-5640. Be sure to confirm that the TAC provides the service of certifying original passports for ITIN applications before you visit.
Be sure to read the W-7 filing instructions to make sure you bring everything you need to request an ITIN.
- Useful link: ITIN Updated Procedure FAQ
Page updated August 2023