What is a Social Security number?

Essentially, a Social Security number is a unique number assigned to you by the federal Social Security Administration so that employers know you have valid work authorization. It is also necessary for employers to be able to tax your income appropriately. A Social Security number by itself is NOT a “work card” or “work permit” and must be used in conjunction with other documents establishing lawful immigration status in the US, such as your Form DS-2019.

Your J-2 spouse is also eligible for a Social Security number, but needs to apply for and obtain a work authorization first. The new Form I-765 for work authorization includes an automatic application for a social security number. Therefore, if granted, both the work authorization and SSN will come in the mail at the same time or few days apart.

How can I apply for one?

  • Step 1: Go to the Social Security Administration Office in Downtown Birmingham

    Gather the following documents for your Social Security Number (SSN) application:

    • Unexpired passport
    • Your electronic Form I-94, printed from the CBP website
    • Signed, valid Form DS-2019
    • Completed Form SS-5 application
    • Copy of your offer letter from UAB listing your salary

    Take the documents listed above to the Social Security Administration (SSA) office, located at:

    Social Security Administration
    1200 Rev. Abraham Woods Jr. Blvd. North
    Birmingham, AL 35285

    The office is open from 9:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday and from 9:00 a.m. until noon on Wednesday. The parking entrance is on 12th Street. When you arrive, take a number from the computer in the lobby and wait for your number to appear on a screen in the waiting room. Bring your documents to the window number on the screen to speak to an SSA officer, who will review and return your documents. If your application is accepted, it will take approximately three weeks to receive your Social Security card in the mail. If your application is rejected, ask for a supervisor. If a supervisor is unavailable, call ISSS at (205) 934-3328 and ask the SSA officer to speak with one of our international scholar advisors. The SSA officer will not be able to tell you your Social Security number that day. You must wait for the card to arrive in the mail.

    More Information About Applying for an SSN →

  • Step 2: Bring your Social Security card to ISSS in Sterne Library or the Records Office on the first floor of the Administration Building to update your Form I-9.

    Once you receive your Social Security card in the mail, UAB officials must update several databases and change your temporary ID to your permanent Social Security number. This is very important so that you can continue to be paid! When your card arrives in the mail, you MUST take the physical card (not a copy of it) to the Records Office on the second floor of the UAB Administration Building (701 20th Street South) so that they can update your Form I-9 in the Guardian database so that you can continue to be paid. You will receive an email from perfectcompliance.com saying “Your assistance is needed.” Do not delete this email! It contains important instructions about how to finish the hiring process so that you can be paid.

    You must also inform the ISSS office of your Social Security number so that we can update Windstar, our tax database. If you do not notify both the Records Office and ISSS of your new Social Security number, you may experience significant delays in payment.