A social security number is necessary to receive any income for employment while in the U.S. While many nonimmigrants are eligible for social security numbers by virtue of their status in the U.S., others are not eligible for a social security number unless they are or will be working.
F-1 and J-1 students are only eligible for social security numbers if engaging in lawful employment. Foreign nationals in most other statuses are eligible for social security numbers only after obtaining an employment authorization (EAD) from the USCIS.
For F-1 students, an optional practical training employment authorization card is sufficient employment documentation to support an application for a social security number, and application for the SSN m ay be made once tehe start date has been reached. Simmilarly, students on F-1 CPT may apply for the SSN based upon that employment authorization. However, F-1 students engaging in on-grounds employment with UVA must obtain a letter from the ISO before applying.
Individuals in J-1 status are eligible to apply for a social security number after arrival in the U.S. and are not required to provide any documentation of employment.
For more information, please visit the Social Security Administration Web site.