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Social Security and Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN)

International Scholars > Taxes > Social Security and ITIN

Social Security Numbers

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 U.S. citizenship or permanent residence. Individuals who are paid in the U.S. must have a SSN to file an income tax return. Individuals who are not paid in the U.S. 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 U.S.

To obtain a SSN, you must apply in person at a local Social Security Administration office (see area locations below). Applications require that you show all original visa documentation including your passport, I-94 admission record printed from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/request.html OR Form I-94 from most recent entry into the U.S., 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.

Please report your Social Security number to the MIT HR/Payroll Service Center as soon as you receive it. Call (617) 253-4255 or go in person to Building NE49-4097 (the 600 Technology Square Building on Main Street).

Individuals employed in the U.S. 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 U.S. 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 U.S. 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.

Social Security Administration addresses:

Cambridge:

10 Fawcett Street
First Floor
Cambridge, MA 02138

Hours:
9:00 am to 3:00 pm,
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday
9:00 am to 12:00 pm, Wednesday
Downtown Boston:

Federal Office Building
10 Causeway Street
Boston, MA 02222

Hours:
9:00 am to 3:00 pm,
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday
9:00 am to 12:00 pm, Wednesday
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.

More information about Social Security numbers can be found on the Social Security Administration website.

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Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN)

Individuals without employment authorization from U.S. 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 U.S. tax returns but who are not eligible for SSNs (e.g. dependents in F-2, J-2 without EAD, H-4, or O-3 visa status) 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 U.S. 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 tax preparation software in Thomson Reuters' Foreign National Tax Resource 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 or Form 1040NR-EZ):

  • You must also attach your dependents' passports 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 U.S. visa page of your passport.
    *Notarized copies and apostille documents are NOT acceptable for W-7 purposes.

  • You must mail your Form W-7 and completed tax return to:

    Internal Revenue Service
    ITIN Operations
    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.

If you are a J-2 dependent of an MIT-sponsored J-1 scholar who is not eligible for a SSN, you may submit Form W-7 with a certifying letter issued by the ISchO. More information

Be sure to read the W-7 filing instructions to make sure you send everything you need to request an ITIN.

More information about Social Security numbers and ITINs can be found on the Social Security Administration website and on the IRS website.

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MIT Identification Numbers

Please note that your MIT identification number, and SSN or ITIN, are not interchangeable. If you are completing paperwork and do not have the type of number that is requested, it is best to ask for help.

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Last Updated: September 2014

77 Massachusetts Ave, Room E38-219, Cambridge, MA 02139-4307 | Telephone: (617) 253-2851 | Fax: (617) 253-6624 | E-mail: iso@mit.edu