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In the U.S. a Social Security Number is issued to track earnings over a worker’s lifetime. Scholars who are employed in the U.S. must apply for an SSN. International scholars who are unemployed are ineligible for an SSN.
If you have been previously issued an SSN from a previous time in the U.S., your SSN belongs to you and you do not need to request a new number.
An SSN is not an off-campus employment authorization and an SSN is not required to open a bank account, rent an apartment, start a mobile phone contract or get a credit card.
Your J-1 scholar status allows you to be employed by ASU without applying to USCIS for employment authorization.
When you go to the Social Security office, take your passport, your form I-94, your form DS-2019 and your completed application form (SS-5).
There are two Social Security offices where you can apply for a Social Security Card. The light rail or city bus will take you very close to the downtown Phoenix Social Security office.