Permission to Work
Students who have F-1 status may work under certain circumstances while they are in the United States. There are two major categories of work for which an international student may qualify.
Employment on Campus
On campus employment is permitted only on the campus that has issued the I-20. A student must be in valid F-1 status. A student is limited to 20 hours a week during the semester, but may work full time (up to 40 hours) during vacation periods (summer, winter, and holidays). To be employed, the student will need to have a Social Security Card. To apply for a SS# the student must obtain a job offer on campus; the International Education Office will issue a confirmation letter to the Social Security Office. A Social Security card may be obtained at a Social Security Office. The International Education Office will also issue a letter to the CSU Stanislaus Human Resources office certifying that students are maintaining their lawful F1 status for work authorization.
Employment off Campus
You must have permission by the Office of International Education prior to working off campus.
The following is an explanation of the types of work which allow you to work off campus. It includes a description of the rules, how to get permission, and the kinds of work which may be authorized.
- Severe Economic Hardship: must be authorized by OIE
- Curricular Practical Training: Internship authorized by International Student Advisor
- Optional Practical Training: 12 months authorized by OIE per degree level
Severe Economic Hardship
Off campus employment due to Economic Hardship is permitted only in cases where there is proven severe economic hardship. The purpose of this kind of work is to enable a student to earn income that is needed to pay tuition and living expenses because his/her sponsor cannot provide sufficient funds. A student applying for permission to work off campus must prove there is economic necessity due to unforeseen circumstances. In other words, a student must provide evidence that he/she is not receiving enough money to pay for school expenses and that the cause for not receiving enough money is something that was not expected to happen when he/she came to the U.S. Permission to work off campus is granted by the OIE. Students interested in applying must see the International Student Advisor to obtain application. (A student may not apply for this work permission until she/he has been in full-time F1 status for two academic semesters.)
Social Security Number
In the United States, a Social Security Number (SSN) is a 9-digit number issued to citizens, permanent residents and temporary (working) non-residents by the Social Social Security Administration (SSA). Its primary purpose is to track individuals for taxation purposes; it is not intended to be used for identification purposes. Per current legislation, SSNs can only be issued to someone who:
- Is a citizen or permanent resident of the United States or
- Has a valid job offer and/or is eligible for legal employment
Currently, SSNs are only issued to non-residents who have an employment offer. Dependents in F-2 status are not eligible for an SSN since they are not permitted to work.
Please note that students do not need an SSN to register for classes at CSU Stanislaus, get a driver’s license in California, or open a bank account. However, landlords and utility, cable and cell phone companies may request an SSN to do a credit history check to determine the amount of deposit they will require to secure housing or to activate services.
The SSA provides more information on SSNs for international students.
Students and scholars who are not eligible for an SSN may be eligible for a Tax Identification Number (ITIN) to use for filing taxes during tax season reporting.
How to Apply for an SSN
Students and scholars must wait at least two weeks after their initial entry into the U.S to begin the SSN application process. The SSA must receive its database update from the ports of entry before the application can be accepted.
To begin the application process, students and scholars must first obtain a job offer and bring the job offer letter to OIE along with the SSN letter request form. In 5 business days, an OIE support letter will be prepared for the SSN application. It is not possible to obtain an SSN without this letter. The application for an SSN is free of charge.
Required documents for SSN Application at SSA:
- Application for SS-5 (available at an SSA office or online)
- Valid Passport
- Original SEVIS I-20 (for F-1 visa holders) or DS-2019 (for J-1/J-2 visa holders)
- A valid I-94 card (a small white Arrival/Departure card stapled to passport)
- Proof of employment eligibility (such as an job offer letter, I-20 endorsed for CPT, or Employment Authorization Document (EAD) card.
- Social Security letter from OIE
All documents must be either originals or copies certified by the issuing agency. The SSA does not accept photocopies or notarized copies of documents. SSA will then verify the documents with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before assigning an SSN.
A Social Security number and card will be issued within about two weeks of receiving certification from DHS. In most cases, the SSA can quickly verify the documents online.
Most on-campus jobs will allow students to start working while their application is being processed.
The closest SSA office from the University:
SOCIAL SECURITY OFFICE
Suite – E1
1521 N. Carpenter Rd.
Modesto, CA 95351
Phone Numbers: Local Number (209) 523-2670
National Toll-Free (800) 772-1213
Identity Theft and SSN
Please note that it is very important to keep the SSN confidential at all times and avoid carrying the SSN card in a wallet. This is a key piece of information that can be used in identity theft incidents.
Identity theft occurs when someone steals personal information and uses it to make financial transactions. This personal information can include an SSN, credit card number, birth date, phone number and/or address. One popular means of this is called “phishing,” where thieves pretend to be financial institutions or companies and send spam or pop-up messages to get individuals to reveal their personal information such as SSN, bank account and credit card information over the Internet. Please note that no bank or credit card company will ask for information by Internet or phone.
Another popular method used is an email message saying individuals have access to a largen amount of money and someone can help them collect it. Individuals also may receive an offer to participate in a joint venture where they provide a certain amount upfront and gain a percentage of profits or an offer to cash checks and receive a percentage of a total of that cashed check. All of these are scams and fraudulent.
Always carefully guard all personal information, including SSN, passwords, log-ins and account information. Shred important and confidential documents when disposing of them. A “cross-cut” shredder can be purchased at electronic or home appliances stores. As a cheaper alternative, always cut out important information when disposing of documents.
The U.S. Department of Justice provides additional information on Identity Theft and Identity Fraud.
What to do when an identity has been stolen
Students and scholars who believe their identity has been stolen should visit the U.S. Federal Trade Commission website for information on what to do and file a report with the local police department.
One way to keep informed on the security of personal information is to request credit history checks on a regular basis.
Credit History and SSN
In the U.S., a credit history shows an individual's past record of paying bills, loans, etc. and is used to verify that they are financially responsible. Unfortunately, although it was never its intended purpose, the SSN became the requested identification number used to check personal credit historyin the US . It is still commonly asked for when individuals are being considered as an apartment tenant, opening accounts or installing services. Landlords, banks and service companies use the SSN to request a credit history report.
Students and scholars who are not eligible to obtain an SSN probably don’t have a credit history in the United States and this is why they may be asked to pay higher security deposits for housing and services or be restricted in the type of bank accounts they can open. Unfortunately, if they do not meet the eligibility requirements to be granted an SSN, they cannot obtain one merely for identification purposes.
How do I establish a credit history?
One way to build “credit” is to obtain a U.S. credit card and pay all bills in full and on time, but please note the use or misuse of U.S. credit cards becomes a key part of the credit history. Over time and if fiscally responsible, it is possible to develop a good credit history in the U.S. which can be used to request better rates or lower deposits on loans, services, etc. However, missed payments or bills sent to a collection agency may result in difficulty in renting, getting financial assistance or obtaining loans/credit in the future.
The Federal Trade Commission provides more information about building a better credit history.
How do I check my credit history?
- The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides guidance on requesting a free credit report
- Some banks or credit card companies may have services that regularly monitor an individual’s credit for an additional monthly fee.
FICA Taxes (Social Security & Medicare)
Social Security payroll taxes are collected under the Federal Insurance Contributions Act (FICA) and the payroll taxes are sometimes referred to as “FICA taxes.” The payroll taxes collected for Social Security are taxes, but they are also contributions to the social insurance system that is Social Security.
More information about FICA taxes can be found on the SSA website.
Visitors to California who are over the age of 18 and have a valid driver’s license from the home country may drive in California without getting a California driver’s license, as long as the home country license remains valid. However, when purchasing a motor vehicle and auto insurance, most insurance companies require a valid California Driver’s license.
Obtaining a California Driver’s License
The California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website outlines the process of obtaining a California Driver’s License. The application process includes a written test and driving skills test administered by the DMV. The California Driver’s Handbook is an indispensible resource when preparing for these tests. Samples of written tests are also available online for reference.
Obtaining a California Identification Card
A California driver’s license is commonly used as an important form of identification. International students and scholars who do not drive are instead able to obtain a California Identification (ID) card. The DMV website offers detailed guidelines on obtaining an ID card.
Required Documents at the DMV
In order to verify the applicant’s birth date and legal status for a driver’s license or ID card application, the DMV requires the following documents:
- Valid passport
- I-94 card
International Driving Permit
The State of California does not recognize an International Driving Permit (IDP) as a valid driver license. However, California does recognize a valid driver license that is issued by a foreign jurisdiction (country, state, territory) of which the license holder is a resident.
The IDP is only a translation of information contained on a person’s foreign driver license and is not required to operate a motor vehicle in California.
The IDP is also referred to as an International Driver License or International License.
Visiting the DMV
DMV office located closest to the University:
825 E. Monte Vista Avenue
To reduce the waiting time at the DMV office, OIE recommends making an appointment online.
Most non-nationals are liable for taxation on any income earned in the United States from the beginning of their arrival in the U.S. Income could include salary, scholarships/fellowships, income from U.S. mutual funds or U.S. bank accounts.
Taxes for each calendar year are reported in the Spring of the following year and tax forms are filed with both the U.S. Government (federal) through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and the U.S. state/s in which income was earned. For example, if you earned income in California (CA) and New York (NY) you would file separate state forms for both CA and NY.
Generally, all F-1 and J-1 students and their dependents are considered non-residents (NR) for tax purposes for their first five years in the United States and would file federal form 1040NR (long form) or 1040NR-EZ (short form). Scholars are typically considered NR regarding taxation for their first two years in the United States. H-1B, TN or O-1 status holders who have been in the U.S. for more than 183 days should go to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS) site resources to see if they should file resident (1040, 1040A or 1040EZ) rather than non-resident tax forms, specifically Publication 519 (U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens).
ALL non-residents in F, J, M or Q status and each of their dependents must file federal form 8843, Statement of Non-Residence, each tax season even if no income was earned. You should note that being a resident for tax purposes does not mean resident for immigration purposes.
Typical Forms You May Receive
Employers will be sending you a statement of income earned and applicable taxes withheld (W-2) and/or tax treaty benefits claimed (1042-S). Form 1099 would be sent by either Banks to show interest or income earned through their services or you would receive it if you worked for a temporary or staffing agency or worked as a consultant. You will use information on these forms to assist you in completing your federal and state tax returns.
1. Form W-2
This form shows all income earned and income tax at the state and federal level that is withheld. You would receive a W-2 from each employer and thus may have multiple W-2's to use.
2. Form 1042-S
The purpose of this form is to report U.S. taxable income and U.S. income tax withholding for:
- Scholarships, fellowships or grants awarded to students or postdoctoral fellows and compensation for services rendered.
- Income claimed as exempt from U.S. income tax under a tax treaty. Treaties are claimed by filing form 8233.
3. Form 1099
This form shows any interest earned on bank account, stocks, funds, etc. which you may need to claim. It also reflects any income earned through a temporary or staffing agency or if you are hired as an independent consultant.
4. Form 1098-T
As an F-1/J-1, please disregard this form in regards to tax filing as it is only needed for U.S. residents and citizens to claim a possible tax exemption (Hope Scholarship and Lifetime Learning Credit) for education expenses. It would not be applicable since you are a non-resident. However, certain non-resident aliens who are married to U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens and who qualify to file a joint-income tax return, may, in some cases qualify to claim the credits.
Also, a "dummy" or placeholder Social Security Number (SSN) may appear on this form. If you do not have an SSN and you have been issued a "dummy" SSN, this place holder number is not a valid SSN to use for non-tax purposes.
If you have any questions regarding this form, please contact the Office of International Education.
Filing for Taxes
You will use Forms W-2, 1042-S and 1099, if received and applicable, to fill out your federal and state tax forms. For additional information go to IRS website.
State of California Taxes
Please contact the Office of International Education for more information regarding California state taxes.
State of California Franchise Tax Board: http://www.ftb.ca.gov/
If you need to file income tax returns for states other than California, more information is available here.
FICA Taxes (Social Security & Medicare)
F.I.C.A. stands for the Federal Insurance Contributions Act which is a taxation on income earned where the funds are used for federal programs that provide benefits for U.S. citizens and permanent residents when they retire, are disabled, or are the children of deceased workers. Funds withheld for F.I.C.A. are reflected on paycheck stubs and also in boxes 4 and 6 of your W-2.
Internationals and F.I.C.A.
F-1 and J-1 student visa holders are typically exempt from paying F.I.C.A. taxes for their first 5 years in the United States and these taxes should not be deducted from paychecks. J-1 scholars and researchers are typically only exempt for 2 years. The mechanism for the exemptions are found under Internal Revenue Code 3121 (b)(19) and is available to persons in F-1, J-1, M-1 and Q immigration status.
It is a blanket exemption with the only qualification being that the person be a nonresident for tax purposes and that the work is authorized (CPT, OPT, AT). IRS Publication 519 is a good resource, specifically pages 44 and 45. More information is available here.
Obtaining Reimbursements of F.I.C.A. Witholdings
If your employer has mistakenly withheld F.I.C.A. taxes, you must work with them directly to request a reimbursement. If they will not assist you, you can file Internal Revenue Service (IRS) forms 843 or 8316 to request reimbursement. Please note that J-2s with work authorization are not exempt from FICA taxes.
Tax Related Resources
- 1040NR and 1040NR-EZ
- Form 8843 – Statement of Non-Residence
- Publication 519 – (U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens)
- Publication 901– (U.S. Tax Treaties)
- Form 8233 – Request for tax treaty exemption
- Form 843 Form8316 – Incorrect withholding of FICA tax
If you have filed incorrect tax forms, OIE strongly encourages you to use the services of either a Certified Public Accountant (CPA), tax attorney or licensed tax firm to correct your tax filing and return any reimbursements you were not eligible for. These services will incur a charge and you can contact them for estimates.
Understand that when you submit any tax forms to the U.S. government, you are making a legal and recorded statement of status and eligibility which must be correct. False filings can seriously impact future immigration eligibility and status.
Please note that amended returns should be filed as soon as possible to avoid any penalties.
Non-residents cannot E-file (electronically file) tax forms but will need to print them, fill them out and mail them as hard copies to the federal and state governments.
Frequently Asked Questions
I did not work this year; do I need to file anything?
Yes, even if you do not have a source income in the U.S. As a nonresident for tax purposes with no U.S. source income, you (and any dependents) must file federal Form 8843 only.
I worked on- or off-campus this year; must I file an income tax return?
Yes. All non-residents who were present in the United States during the tax year, must file a federal and state tax return if they had income in the United States during the tax year.
What should I put in item #10 on the 8843 that asks for me to contact information for my “academic or other specialized program?”
You would put the name of the Dean of your academic department and the general contact info for the academic department.
What is the difference between the 1040NR and the 1040NREZ?
The 1040NR is a longer, more detailed tax form, totaling five pages, which can be used by any non-resident. The 1040NREZ is a simplified version of the same form, which can be completed by non-residents who meet certain requirements. Just remember EZ stands for “easy” or a less-detailed form.
Most students can file the 1040NREZ. Note: Married students from India whose spouse had no U.S. source income should file the 1040NR. See the 1040NR instructions for more information.
Do I need a Social Security Number to file a return?
You need either a U.S. Social Security Number (SSN) or Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) in order to file your tax return. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will reject returns without these numbers. (Numbers that begin with 999 or 90 are not U.S. Social Security Numbers).
What is a tax treaty?
Currently the U.S. has tax treaties or agreements with approximately 40 countries and territories under which their citizens may be exempt from all or part of U.S. federal income tax.
To see if your country is among these and how a treaty may affect your tax status, read the IRS Publication #901.
When should I file my income tax return?
Tax returns must be post-marked by April 15th.
Where can I get additional U.S. tax forms?
State of California Franchise Tax Board: http://www.ftb.ca.gov/
Where can I get help in preparing my return?