Information for F-1 Visa Holders
On this page:
- Processing for Social Security Number and On-Campus Employment
- Employment Options for F-1 Students
- Curriculum Practical Training (CPT)
- F-1 Hardship Employment
Processing for Social Security Number and On-Campus Employment
current covid-19 protocols
The student must have a Completed Social Security Letter for F-1/J-1 Students & Scholars and page 5 of the SSN application completed
- Student fills out top of Social Security Letter for F-1/J-1 Students & Scholars and gives the completed form to their on campus employer
- On-campus employer fills out Part 2 and signs the form
- Student uploads the completed Social Security Letter for F-1/J-1 Students and Scholars and completed SSN application page 5 to the SSN e-form
- UCIE will process and mail application forms to the Social Security Administration
- After a few weeks of processing, Social Security will call the student for a Social Security meeting in which they bring a copy of the Social Security Letter for F-1/J-1 Students & Scholars and their original immigration documents
To get you most recent I-94 follow this link: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home
Employment Options for F-1 Students
This section provides you with an introduction to employment issues and options for international students in F-1 status. The most important employment issue that you always need to keep in mind is the issue of legal (or "authorized") versus illegal (or "unauthorized") employment. You must always make sure that any employment you plan to engage in is legal and not illegal employment, since any illegal employment even for one day, even if you did not know it was illegal - poses a grave threat to your ability to remain in or return to the United States. And you must always make sure that you have the necessary employment authorization before you begin work, since starting work without prior authorization even if you receive authorization later constitutes illegal employment. Illegal, or unauthorized, employment renders you illegally present in the U.S. (Depending on how recent changes to the immigration will be interpreted, it may also immediately void the F-1 visa in your passport and prevent you from obtaining a new visa anywhere except in your home country; and it may start the count toward 183 and 365 days of illegal presence which will bar you from reentering the U.S. for three years and ten years, respectively.)
You should always consult with an UCIE advisor before beginning any employment. This is the only way to be sure that you won't engage in illegal employment, with all of its adverse consequences for your future in the United States.
Different requirements exist for each type of F-1 employment, but there are basic requirements which must be met for any F-1 employment:
- You must be enrolled for a full course of study (or have recently completed study, for post completion optional practical training).
- You must be authorized by DHS or the UCIE to attend Wright State University.
Once employment is authorized you must maintain eligibility or you may lose your right to continue employment, even if it was authorized in writing.
Definition of Employment
Employment is any type of work performed or services provided in exchange for money, tuition, fees, books, supplies, room, food or any other benefit. If you receive no pay or other benefit for the work performed, this activity is not defined as employment, but is considered to be volunteer work.
Categories of F-1 Student Employment
On Campus Employment
Work on WSU's campus is usually permissible if it meets certain requirements. The authorization for on campus employment must be obtained from UCIE; DHS authorization is not necessary. Work on campus is limited to 20 hours per week when school is in session but may be full time during holiday and vacation periods.
DHS defines on campus employment as the following:
- Type 1: Employment by Wright State University. Any on campus work for which you receive a paycheck (or other compensation, such as room and board, etc.) from Wright State University.
- Type 2: Other Employment on WSU's Premises. This includes work on WSU's campus for an outside contractor if this work provides direct services to students.
- Type 3: Certain Off Campus Employment where there is an official educational relationship between WSU and the off campus employer. DHS regulations allow work at an off campus location provided (1) the location is educationally affiliated with WSU, (2) the educational affiliation is associated with your school's established curriculum or is related to a graduate level research project which your school has contracted to perform, and (3) the work is an integral or important part of your program of study.
Internship with an International Organization
If you are offered employment in the form of an internship by a recognized international organization, you may accept such employment upon receipt of authorization from the Immigration Office. Examples of recognized organizations include the United Nations, the World Bank, International Monetary Fund, etc. For more information consult with an UCIE advisor.
Curricular Practical Training
Some work experiences which are an integral part of your program of study may be the basis for curricular practical training employment authorization. These experiences may include alternate work/study programs, internships, cooperative education programs and practicum experiences which are either (1) a required part of your academic program, or (2) work for which you receive academic course credit.
Optional Practical Training
F-1 students are eligible for twelve months of optional practical training (OPT). OPT provides an opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge obtained in an academic program to a practical work experience. This employment opportunity must be directly related to your major field of study. It may, in certain circumstances, be full or part time and may take place anywhere in the U.S. You may apply to use OPT during your vacation periods, during the academic year, or when you complete your studies. OPT requires authorization from the Citizenship and Immigration Service before you can start to work (this authorization typically takes four to twelve weeks to obtain).
Social Security Numbers and Taxes
If you plan to work in the U.S. (including on campus) you will need a Social Security Number (a WSU ID is not a Social Security Number). Please visit UCIE office or web site for instructions on how to apply for a Social Security Number. The Social Security Administration will process your application and a number will be sent to you in about one month.
In general, F-1 students who have been in the U.S. for less than five years are exempt from social security (also known as FICA) and Medicare taxes. You should be sure to bring this to the attention of your employer because many employers are not familiar with this provision of the tax laws. If you need more information about the F-1 social security and Medicare tax exemption, please contact UCIE. Students in F-1 status are subject to all other taxes that may apply: federal, state and local.
Employment Eligibility Verification
Within the first three days of beginning work you and your employer must complete a form called an Employment Eligibility Verification Form (DHS Form I-9). This form will be kept on file by your employer and must be updated each time you receive a renewal of your work permission.
Curriculum Practical Training (CPT)
The purpose of practical training is to allow F-1 students the opportunity to apply theoretical knowledge obtained in academic programs to a practical work experience. There are two different types of practical training: curricular practical training and optional practical training. This handout discusses the rules and procedures that govern curricular practical training. For information on F-1 optional practical training, please see the UCIE handout, Information on F-1 Optional Practical Training. (Please note that students in English language programs are not eligible for either type of practical training.)
Find more information and applications on the CPT page.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Optional Practical Training (OPT) regulations are intended to allow F-1 students to apply knowledge gained in the classroom to a practical work experience off campus. There are two types of practical training: optional practical training and curricular practical training. This page discusses the rules and procedures that govern optional practical training. Please note that students in English language training programs are not eligible for either type of practical training.
As an F-1 student, you are entitled to up to 12 months of optional practical training (OPT) for each degree level you complete with the exception that if you have used 12 months or more of fulltime curricular practical training you will not be eligible to receive any optional practical training. You may obtain authorization for optional practical training either before or after completion of a course of study, but all authorized practical training will be counted toward your 12 month limit.
Find more information and applications on the OPT page.
F-1 Hardship Employment
Immigration regulations allow an F-1 student who experiences unforeseen financial problems while studying in the U.S. to obtain off campus employment permission under certain conditions. This handout discusses the requirements and limitations of F-1 economic hardship employment authorization. This off campus employment permission may provide real help in difficult circumstances by allowing a student to supplement his or her income enough to meet some living expenses. Economic hardship employment authorization will not, however, enable a student to earn enough to bear the cost of the full time course of study required to maintain F student status. It should not be thought of, then, as a solution for serious financial difficulties.
If you are an F-1 student who is experiencing economic hardship due to an unforeseen change in your financial situation, you may qualify for off campus employment authorization under relevant immigration regulations. (You must, of course, be a full time student in valid F-1 status to qualify for this, as for any other benefit of F status.) If employment authorization is granted you will be able to work off campus for up to 20 hours per week while school is in session and full time during vacation periods. Economic hardship employment authorization which allows you to work in any job, related or not related to your studies will be granted for one year or for the remainder of your academic program, whichever period is less.
When considering your eligibility for hardship employment authorization the most important point to keep in mind is that for you to qualify an adverse change in your financial situation must have been unforeseen, or to be more accurate it must have been unforeseeable, when you first came to the U.S. to study. Immigration regulations provide that the unforeseen circumstances "may include loss of financial aid or on campus employment without fault on the part of the student, substantial fluctuations in the value of currency or exchange rate, inordinate increases in tuition and/or living costs, unexpected changes in the financial conditions of the student's source of support, medical bills, or other substantial and unexpected expenses. "Only unforeseen problems can be the basis for hardship employment authorization because, as you will recall from the process of obtaining your I-20 and visa to enter the U.S., students must first demonstrate that all of the financial resources needed for their program of study are available before they are able to obtain F-1 status.
If you believe that your circumstances may qualify you for hardship employment authorization, please meet with an UCIE advisor. If it appears that you are eligible for hardship employment authorization, the advisor will ask you to (1) write a letter in which you describe in some detail the circumstances that support your request for hardship employment authorization, and (2) ask you to provide documentation confirming these circumstances (for example, a letter from your department to document the loss of a scholarship, or exchange rate data showing a currency devaluation, or a letter from an accountant confirming unexpected business losses). When the need for hardship employment authorization is well documented the UCIE advisor will help you prepare an employment authorization application to be submitted to the Citizenship and Naturalization Service (CIS).
Employment Authorization Application
For your employment authorization application you will need to present to UCIE:
- your letter and supporting documentation, as described above
- completed DHS Form I-765 (available from UCIE)
- write "(c)(3)(iii)" in item 16 of Form I-765
- use an address on Form I-765 where you can receive mail over the next three or four months
- two identical color photographs, in three-quarter right front profile, with your right ear showing (To insure the proper pose, look 45º to the left of the camera.)
The photographs must have a white background, be taken less than 30 days ago, be unmounted, printed on thin, glossy paper and be unretouched; Immigration Service regulations also require that you not wear jewelry in the photograph and that your head be uncovered unless you wear a headdress for religious reasons; the photographs should not be larger than 1½ X 1½ inches and the distance from the top of the head to just below the chin should be approximately 1¼ inches.
(WSU-Media Services Photo Office (phone 775-3388) is familiar with the photo requirements; tell them or another photographer that you need photographs for an Employment Authorization Document or "Green Card style "photographs.)
You should print your name lightly in pencil on the back of the two photographs (include the number on your previous EAD if you have one from an earlier period of optional practical training).
- a personal check or money order for $410 payable to "DHS" (A personal check is preferable because, if necessary, you will be able to determine if it has been cashed.)
- a photocopy for the front and back of your I-20 Form
- a photocopy of the front and back of your I-94 card (white card, usually stapled in your passport)
- a photocopy of your passport information page (and the page including your photograph, if different)
- a photocopy of the visa page in your passport (except Canadian citizens, who have no visa)
- if you have had a previous period of employment authorized by DHS, a photocopy of your previous Employment Authorization Document (photo ID card)
Your application will then be submitted by mail to the regional office of the Citizenship and Immigration Service in Nebraska for CIS consideration. CIS will first mail a receipt to you, to the address you wrote on your Form I-765, and will later mail notice of the CIS decision to you at this address. If CIS approves your application they will send you an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) as evidence of your permission to be employed. Please note that DHS processing usually takes 30 to 60 days and may take up to 90 days. You may not begin employment before you receive an EAD from DHS; working before receipt of an EAD constitutes illegal employment that renders you illegally present in the U.S.
Social Security Numbers
Before you begin work you will need a valid Social Security number (your WSU ID is not a valid Social Security Number). If you do not already have one, please obtain application instructions and directions to the Social Security Office from UCIE. The Social Security Administration will process your application and a number will be sent to you in about one month.
In general, F-1 students who have been in the U.S. in less than six calendar years are exempt from social security (FICA) and Medicare taxes. You should be sure to bring this to the attention of your employer because many employers are not familiar with this provision of the tax laws. If you need more information about the F-1 social security and Medicare tax exemption, please contact UCIE.
Students in F-1 status are subject to all other taxes that may apply: federal, state and local (but check with UCIE to see if your country is one of the few that has a tax treaty with the U.S. allowing students to exclude a limited amount of earned income from federal taxation).