International Student Employment

Work options for international students are limited while maintaining a student visa status.

It is imperative that a student have employment authorization before they begin working.

The status-specific resource pages provide information on the types of employment for which F-1 and J-1 students may be eligible. Individual circumstances will ultimately determine eligibility. VISA Office advisors  have in-depth understanding of federal regulations and can properly advise you on your options. Always consult an international student advisor before accepting any job offer or starting employment. Working without proper authorization is a violation of status and can have serious consequences for your immigration status.

Status-Specific Rules and Regulations

We’ve compiled information regarding employment for:

Social Security Numbers

A Social Security number (SSN) is a nine-digit number issued by the Social Security Administration to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and temporary residents who are legally permitted to work in the United States. The primary purpose of an SSN is to track an individual's wages, eligibility for Social Security benefits, and determine eligibility for other benefits. The Social Security Administration will only assign a number to individuals who are legally permitted to work.

Once assigned an SSN, that number is yours for your entire life. If you leave the U.S. and return in the future, you will keep the same SSN.

Your Social Security card is not an identity card and should not be used in everyday situations. Only give your number in official situations dealing directly with employment, banking, or taxes, and verify that your number will be kept confidential. You should not carry your card with you—keep it in a safe place!

Do I need a Social Security Number (SSN) while I am living the U.S.?

No. You can live in the U.S. and do many of the things that American citizens do—such as open a bank account and get a driver’s license—without having an SSN. Some banks and motor vehicle offices are more knowledgeable than others about regulations regarding international students, so please contact the VISA Office if you need assistance.

In some instances, it may seem that an SSN is required. For example, most cell phone providers ask for an SSN in order to run a credit check. However, most companies (e.g. AT&T, T-Mobile, Verizon) offer prepaid plan options that you can purchase as an alternative. An SSN also might be asked for when you start your electric or water services, but in most cases you can ask either to submit a signed affidavit or pay a deposit instead.

How do I get a Social Security Number (SSN)?

The first step in obtaining an SSN is to be properly authorized by obtaining the appropriate approvals from the VISA Office. In some cases, you will also need to have a job offer.

After you’ve been properly authorized and, if necessary, have a job offer, gather the following documents and go to one of the local Social Security Administration offices. You must have been in the U.S. for at least 10 business days (check the date on your I-94 to determine your exact arrival date) before you can apply for an SSN.

F-1 Students

With On-Campus Employment Authorized for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) Authorized for Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Valid Passport Valid Passport Valid Passport
I-94 or printed Admission Record I-94 or printed Admission Record I-94 or printed Admission Record
Current, valid I-20 Current, valid I-20 with CPT Authorization Printed Current, valid I-20 with OPT Endorsement
Employment Verification from the VISA Office Letter from Your Employer EAD Card
    Letter from Your Employer

Exchange Visitors

J-1 Students J-2 with Work Authorization J-1 Students Academic Training
Valid Passport Valid Passport Valid Passport
I-94 or printed Admission Record I-94 or printed Admission Record I-94 or printed Admission Record
Current, Valid DS-2019 Current, Valid DS-2019 Current, Valid DS-2019 with Academic Training Authorization
Employment Verification from the VISA Office Employment Authorization Card Letter from Your Employer
  Letter from Your Employer  

You should receive your SSN in the mail approximately two to three business weeks after submitting your application.

If you encounter any problems while at the Social Security Administration, be sure to contact the VISA Office at or 216.368.6964, or visit us in person in Crawford Hall, Room 215.