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Social Security Numbers & Taxpayer Identification Numbers

Individuals receiving most types of payments will need either an SSN (Social Security Number) or an ITIN (Individual Taxpayer Identification Number).  An international person who wishes to claim exemption from tax withholding under a tax treaty must have a SSN or ITIN. 

Social Security Number (SSN) : a nine-digit number assigned to an individual by the Social Security Administration (SSA).  The number is assigned for tax and wage purposes. Under US federal law, any person working in the USA for compensation (wages, salary, etc) must have an SSN.  This includes international employees. 

Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN):  a nine-digit number assigned to an individual who is not eligible for an SSN but is required to have a ITIN for some US payment or tax reporting purpose. Note that the ITIN is not an SSN and cannot be used for employment purposes. The ITIN is easily distinguished from the SSN because the ITIN always begins with a "9" and the fourth digit is always a "7" or "8". 

Applying for an ITIN:   

To apply for an ITIN submit Form W-7 (Application for IRS Individual Taxpayer Number) to the IRS.  The form and instructions may be obtained from the IRS website .

Applying for an SSN :

Visit the Social Security Administration's SSN Application  webpage.

The Social Security Administration (SSA) recommends that international persons wait until they have been in the USA for 10 calendar days before applying for an SSN.  Waiting ten days, ensures that all immigration information has been properly recorded in the SSA database and allows for timely processing of the SSN. 

International persons in F-1 and J-1 status must obtain a letter from their DSO or ARO giving permission for them to apply for an SSN.  Vanderbilt sponsored F-1 and J-1 person should contact an ISSS advisor or review the ISSS SSN website information for specific instructions on this process. 

Finding the Nashville SSA Office :    

Please click here for Directions to the local SSA office