International Student Employment

International students are highly restricted and limited as to their work options while maintaining a student visa status.

It is imperative that a student have work authorization before 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. International Student Services staff members are the only ones who have in-depth understanding of federal regulations and can properly advise you of 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 has serious consequences.

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 being issued a SSN is to track individuals for Social Security benefits, track wages and reporting of income to the government, 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 a 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 a SSN. Some banks and motor vehicle offices are more knowledgeable than others about regulations regarding international students, so please connect with our office if you would like help locating a knowledgeable bank or motor vehicle office.

In some instances, it may seem a SSN is required. For example, most cell phone providers ask for a 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. A SSN also might be asked for when you start your electric or water services, but in most cases you can ask to either submit a signed affidavit instead of the SSN 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 and to have a job.

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

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
Curent, Valid I-20 Current, Valid I-20 with CPT Authorization Printed Current, Valid I-20 with OPT Endorsement
Employment Verification from ISS 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 ISS Employment Authorization Card Letter from Your Employer
  Letter from Your Employer  

You can download the employment table PDF to keep this information on file.

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 ISS at or 216.368.2517, or visit us in person in Tomlinson Hall, Room 143.