Generally, aliens who enter the United States in an immigration status which allows them to be employed in the United States under specific circumstances under U.S. immigration law are eligible to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN ) from the Social Security Administration.
Most foreign students and scholars in F-1, J-1, M-1, Q-1, and Q-2 nonimmigrant status are eligible to be employed in the United States, and are therefore eligible to apply for an SSN if they are actually employed in the United States.
Aliens who are not eligible to apply for a U.S. social security number, or who do not meet the Social Security Administration's evidence requirements for an SSN, may apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITIN) from the Internal Revenue Service if they have a valid tax reason for needing an ITIN, as explained in the Form W-7 instructions. Use Form W-7 (in English) or Form W-7SP (in Spanish) to apply for an ITIN. Please refer to IRS Publication 1915 (PDF) for a more detailed explanation of ITINs.