Confusion About Off Campus Work Authorization and Social Security Cards
Sometimes, a student asks a question of ISSS staff that is so important that it becomes an article in ISSS-BU News. This article is the result of such a question.
Most international students in F-1 status know that they cannot work off campus without advance authorization, and that federal regulations greatly limit the kinds of off campus employment that can be authorized. Students in J-1 status must have all employment authorized in advance, whether it is on campus or off campus.
For F-1 students, the authorization may be printed on page 3 of the I-20 (Curricular Practical Training) or it may be on a U.S. Department of Homeland Security-issued Employment Authorization Card (Optional Practical Training, Off Campus Employment Due to Economic Hardship). For J-1 students, the employment authorization will be in the form of a letter, issued by the student’s J-1 program sponsor, or, if academic training, as a letter and on the DS-2019.
But, some students have become confused about the Social Security Card issued by the Social Security Administration, and believe that having a Social Security Card with a Social Security Number printed on it is the document that confers eligibility to be employed. NOT TRUE!
In fact, the purpose of a Social Security Card is for presentation to a U.S. employer so that the employer can fulfill U.S. government requirements for reporting taxes on wages, and other taxable income earned in the United States. The Social Security Card is also used as an identity document to obtain other benefits not related to employment, such as certain kinds of health insurance or a driver’s license. But, the Social Security Card does not give someone in F-1 or J-1 status the ability to work.
The Social Security Card issued to F-1 and J-1 students will have a notation on the front of the card “Valid for Work Only With DHS Authorization.” “DHS” stands for Department of Homeland Security. The notation is a reminder to the student and the off-campus employer that other documentation will need to be shown to prove eligibility to work.
Questions? Send your employment questions to the ISSS Employment Team
Visit the ISSS website for information on employment: