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Employment and Taxes

Students gathered together filling out a form

Unauthorized employment by an F-1 student constitutes a violation of visa status and will result in termination of the student's SEVIS record and F-1 status, as well as immediate accrual of days of unlawful presence. A student who is unlawfully present in the US for more than 180 days and then voluntarily leaves the US, is barred from returning to the US for a period of 3 years. More than a year or unlawful presence will result in a bar from returning to the US for a period of 10 years.

Do not start working anywhere for any reason until you have obtained permission from the OISS or the US government. Any work that you intend to engage in, paid or unpaid, whether to provide babysitting or private tutoring services, or to perform duties while classified as a volunteer, intern or employee, must be approved in advance.

F-1 students may apply for permission to work on or off campus under the types of employment for F-1 students listed below, in accordance with US federal regulations.

 

On Campus Employment


  Student Employment Requirements

On-campus employment must either be performed on the school's premises (including on-location commercial firms which provide direct services for students on campus, such as the school bookstore or cafeteria), or at an off-campus location which is educationally affiliated with the school. In the case of off-campus locations, the educational affiliation must be associated with the school's established curriculum or related to contractually funded research projects at the post-graduate level. Employment located on-campus that does not directly involve services to students (such as construction work) does not qualify as on-campus employment.

  • An F-1 student may engage in any on-campus employment which will not displace United States residents.
  • On-campus employment must not exceed 20 hours a week while school is in session. An F-1 student may, however, work on campus full time when school is not in session or during the annual vacation.
  • A Social Security Number (SSN) is required in order to receive payment and report your income to the US government agencies for tax purposes.
  • Upon initial entry to begin a new course of study, an F-1 student may not begin on-campus employment more than 30 days prior to the actual start of classes.

In the case of a school transfer, the student may only engage in on-campus employment at the school having jurisdiction over the student's SEVIS record.

If the student engages in any unauthorized employment or works hours in excess of those allowed, his or her SEVIS record will be terminated, and the student will immediately begin to accrue unlawful presence and may have to leave the US.

  Instructions for Obtaining a Social Security Number for On Campus Employment

Upon securing your job, contact the Student Employment Office at 310.506.4177 to request a letter addressed to the US Social Security Administration (SSA). Please wait 24 hours before pickup.

Contact the Office of International Student Services 310.506.4246 to request a letter addressed to the US Social Security Administration. Please wait 24 hours before pickup. Bring the letter from the Student Employment Office with you. If you wish to have the letter mailed to you, send a copy of the letter from Student Employment to the OISS.

Follow the instructions on the Social Security Administration website on how to apply for a SSN. Obtain a letter or receipt from the SSA, so that you may work while your SSN application is being processed. NOTE: You cannot apply for a SSN more that 30 days before the employment start date. Bring the following items:

  • Passport
  • Form I-20 & Form I-94
  • Letters you obtained from the Student Employment Office and the Office of International Student Services.

Schedule an appointment at the Student Employment office 310.506.4177 to fill out employment and tax paperwork. Bring the following items:

  • Passport
  • Form I-20 & Form I-94
  • Letter or receipt from the SSA

Schedule an appointment at the Payroll office 310.506.4636 to fill out employment and tax paperwork. Bring the following items:

  • Form I-20 & Form I-94
  • Letter or receipt from the SSA

As soon as you receive the SSN card, sign the card and bring original to:

  • Student Employment Office
  • Payroll office

 

Off Campus Employment- Practical Training


  Curricular Practical Training (CPT)

Permission to engage in CPT is granted to F-1 students who must participate in work on or off campus because it is an integral part of the established curriculum of a course, and therefore is necessary to satisfy requirements in order to pass the course. CPT includes: internships, externships, clinical practicums, and any other type of work experience that is needed in order to complete course requirements. To avoid termination of your visa status, you must obtain authorization from the OISS prior to starting the work, even though you are not getting paid or receiving any type of compensation.

CPT Instructions for Seaver College Undergraduate Students

An undergraduate student is eligible to apply for CPT after completing two consecutive semesters of full-time study under the same SEVIS ID number.
Read the How to Get Started page on the Seaver College Career Center website and follow the instructions there to begin the Internship Agreement process. Submit your employment offer letter (use sample letter) to oiss@pepperdine.edu.

  • If your CPT is authorized by your DSO, you will be issued a new Form I-20 authorizing your work at the specific CPT site. Do not begin your CPT until you have received the Form I-20.
  • CPT may not be authorized retroactively. Therefore, inform your CPT employer that you are not allowed to work until you receive your Form I-20, authorizing the CPT.
  • You must be enrolled in a Pepperdine course that is tied to the CPT work.
  • Your work must not begin before or end after the term in which you are enrolled in the course.
  • CPT may be full-time (20 or more hours per week) or part time (up to 20 hours per week), as approved by your academic advisor in order for you to complete course or degree requirements.
  • If you receive one year or more of full-time CPT, you will be ineligible for optional practical training (OPT).
  • If your CPT is a paid position, you must apply for a US Social Security Number (SSN). Follow the instructions on the US Social Security Administration (SSA) website on how to apply for a SSN. Obtain a letter or receipt from the SSA, so that you may work while you wait for your SSN. Bring the following documents:
  1. Passport Form
  2. I-20 & Form I-94
  3. Letters from the company or organization providing the CPT position

NOTE: You cannot apply for a SSN more than 30 days before the employment start date.

CPT Instructions for Graduate Students

Submit a CPT Request form and a CPT employer letter in the OISS Portal, even if the CPT will be done outside the United States.

  • If your CPT is authorized by your DSO, you will be issued a new Form I-20 authorizing your work at the specific CPT site. Do not begin your CPT until you have received the Form I-20.
  • CPT may not be authorized retroactively. Therefore, inform your CPT employer that you are not allowed to work until you receive your Form I-20, authorizing the CPT.
  • You must be enrolled in a Pepperdine course that is tied to the CPT work.
  • Your work must not begin before or end after the term in which you are enrolled in the course.
  • CPT may be full-time (20 or more hours per week) or part time (up to 20 hours per week), as approved by your academic advisor in order for you to complete course or degree requirements.
  • If you receive one year or more of full-time CPT, you will be ineligible for optional practical training (OPT).
  • If your CPT is a paid position, you must apply for a US Social Security Number (SSN). Follow the instructions on the US Social Security Administration (SSA) website on how to apply for a SSN. Obtain a letter or receipt from the SSA, so that you may work while you wait for your SSN. Bring the following documents:
  1. Passport
  2. Form I-20 & Form I-94
  3. Letters from the company or organization providing the CPT position
NOTE: You cannot apply for a SSN more than 30 days before the employment start date.
  Optional Practical Training

Optional practical training (OPT) is an opportunity for F-1 students to obtain temporary employment authorization in a position that is directly related to their major area of study.

An application for OPT is filed with the US Immigration and Citizenship Services (USCIS) and requires careful timing and strict adherence to the required qualifications, instructions and deadlines. To avoid unnecessary delays or having your application denied, read carefully each page of the OPT Manual.

Be sure to access the current version of the OPT Manual and disregard any copies of previous versions you may have downloaded, bookmarked or googled. For the opportunity to have your application reviewed and to ask clarifying questions about the process, sign up for an OPT workshop by contacting the OISS at 310.506.4246.

You should start preparing your OPT application about 4 months prior to your program end date. Filing your application early (but not more than 90 days before your program end date) could help prevent common problems such as: undelivered or lost mail, inability to renew your driver license, inability to accept job offers, and inability to travel.

Quick Links:

 
  Severe Economic Hardship 

An eligible F-1 student may request off-campus employment authorization due to severe economic hardship caused by unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control. These 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; substantial increases in tuition and/or living costs; unexpected changes in the student's source of support; medical bills; or other substantiated events and/or additional expenses.

The student must request a recommendation from the Designated School Official (DSO) for off-campus employment. The DSO may recommend the student for off-campus work by certifying that:

  • The student has been in F-1 status for one full academic year
  • The student is in good standing as a student and is carrying a full course of study.
  • The student has demonstrated that acceptance of employment will not interfere with the student's carrying a full course of study.
  • The student has demonstrated that the employment is necessary to avoid severe economic hardship due to unforeseen circumstances beyond the student's control and has demonstrated that on-campus employment is unavailable or otherwise insufficient to meet the needs that have arisen as a result of the unforeseen circumstances.

The application for employment authorization must be filed on Form I-765, with the required fee, with the US Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). If the application is denied, no appeal may be filed. Employment authorization may be granted in one-year intervals up until the expected date of completion of the academic program.

  Volunteer Work and Unpaid Internships
  • A common misconception among F-1 students is that if you are not getting paid, you do not need permission, because you are a "volunteer."
  • Volunteering, for purposes of determining eligibility without obtaining permission, is defined as donating time for charitable or humanitarian purposes (see list of criteria below).
  • Work that is unpaid may still be considered "employment" for F-1 students and must be approved by the OISS.
  • Unpaid internships are not the same as volunteer work. F-1 students who need to engage in temporary employment (paid or unpaid) to gain practical experience directly related to their field of study must apply for curricular practical training (CPT) authorization.
  • F-1 students should obtain clearance from the OISS before engaging in any type of "volunteer" work off campus.
Services provided by a volunteer:
  1. are for altruistic and charitable purposes.
  2. may be provided only when the volunteer is willing to donate his or her free time.
  3. are not for academic, financial, social or professional gain.
  4. are not for purposes of developing skills in a profession, gaining work experience, or improving career prospects.
  5. are not associated with or similar to a training program which would be given in an educational environment.
  6. are not associated with or similar to services performed for an internship.
  7. are not associated with or similar to services performed for pay.

 

Social Security and Taxes


  U.S. Social Security Numbers

F-1 students who obtain employment authorization in the US under the provisions of the F-1 regulations must apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) to report income and pay the required taxes to the U.S. government.

The SSN is not required for other purposes, such as opening a bank account or renting an apartment off campus. To establish your identity, banks will ask for a taxpayer identification number, such as a SSN. In the absence of a SSN, you may provide a passport number. If you are asked for a SSN by a prospective landlord, cell phone company, or other private businesses, you may provide alternate evidence of your identity and records of your financial transactions.

Do not apply for a SSN until you have fulfilled the initial reporting requirement at the Office of International Student Services (OISS) to have your SEVIS record activated, and until you have obtained the necessary employment-authorization documents.

BEWARE OF IDENTITY THEFT: Do not provide your SSN, credit card information, password, or other personal information through unverified, unsecured sites on the Internet or over the telephone. If someone has misused your SSN or other personal information to create credit or other problems for you, the Social Security Administration (SSA) cannot resolve these problems. You should contact the Federal Trade Commission at or call 1.877.IDTHEFT (1.877.438.4338). You also should monitor your credit report periodically. Free credit reports are available online at www.annualcreditreport.com.

How to Apply

For instructions on how to apply for a SSN and to locate a SSA office near you, go to the Social Security Administration website. Obtain a letter or receipt for your application from the SSA official, so that you may work while your application is being processed.

  • For on-campus employment, apply for a SSN as soon as possible, but not more than 30 days before the date your employment will begin. Bring your passport, Form I-20, Form I-94, and the letters from the Student Employment Office and the Office of International Student Services.
  • For CPT employment, apply for a SSN as soon as possible, but not more than 30 days before the date your employment will begin. Bring your passport, Form I-20 authorizing CPT, Form I-94, and the letter from the CPT employer.
  • For OPT employment, apply for a SSN as soon as the OPT start date printed on your Employment Authorization Document becomes current. Bring your passport, Form I-20, Form I-94, Employment Authorization Document, and proof of job offer, if available.

You will receive your Social Security Number card in the mail. The process usually takes four to eight weeks. Do not forget to report your SSN to your employer! Keep the card in a safe place.

If you have not heard within this time period, you may call the Social Security Administration at 1.800.772.1213 or visit the Social Security Administration website with any questions.Payroll office

 

Tax FAQs

The following is general information regarding taxation of international students. Due to legal restrictions, the OISS staff is not able to answer questions regarding individual tax situations. Students should consult a tax professional who is well-versed in nonresident and resident taxation.


  1. What must F-1 students do to comply with federal tax laws?
  • F-1 students are required to provide information to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) regarding their tax status by completing the Form 8843 for each tax year.
  • F-1 students who received taxable income in the US must also complete the appropriate tax forms necessary to report the income and calculate the amount of tax they may owe.
  • A "tax year" refers to the year starting January 1 and ending December 31. The reporting deadline for each tax year is usually April 15 of the following year.
  • A Green Card Test or Substantial Presence Test is used to determine whether an individual who is not a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the US is a "nonresident" or "resident" for US tax purposes.
  • Nonresidents for tax purposes are taxed only on their US income, with a few exceptions.
  • Residents for tax purposes are taxed by the US on their income from anywhere in the world.
  2. Must all F-1 students submit a Form 8843?

YES! All F-1 students and each of their dependents, even if they did not work or receive any type of income, must send a completed and signed Form 8843 to the IRS to report information about their visa status and the number of days that they were physically present in the US, even if they were present in the US for one day during the tax year.

  3. What is the purpose of the Form 8843?

An individual who is not a citizen or lawful permanent resident of the US is considered to be a resident for tax purposes if that individual passes the Green Card Test or the Substantial Presence Test. F-1 students are automatically considered nonresidents for tax purposes, even if they pass the Substantial Presence Test, for the first five years of presence in F-1 status. They qualify, in other words, to exclude days of presence as a student because they have established that they do not intend to reside permanently in the US.

The Green Card Test: You are a resident for tax purposes if you were a lawful permanent resident of the US at any time during the tax year.

The Substantial Presence Test: You are a resident for tax purposes if:

  1. you were present at least 31 days in the tax year, and
  2. the total of all the days present in the tax year, plus ⅓ of the number of days present in the year before the tax year, plus ⅙ of the number of days present in the year two years before the tax year, is at least 183.
  4. How should I complete the Form 8843?
  • Print the Form 8843 from https://www.irs(print a separate form for each dependent, and provide their information, except in Parts II, III, IV, and V)
  • Enter your first name, middle initial and last name. Enter your US social security number (SSN) or individual tax identification number (ITIN). If you do not have either number, leave this field blank. Enter your address of country of residence and your address in the US.
  • Complete Part I, "General Information." For line 1a, enter your current nonimmigrant status shown on your current Form I-94. For line 1b, enter the same information. If your status changed while you were in the US (without entering the US), enter the date of change and previous status. For line 4a, enter the number of days you were present in F-1 status during the last 3 years. For line 4b, enter the same number of days you entered for the last (most recent) year.
  • Complete Part III, "Students."
  • Sign and date the form on page 2. If you have a child under 14 years of age, you can sign the form for your child.
  • Make a copy of the form for your records before sending it to "Department of the Treasury, Internal Revenue Service Center, Austin, TX 73301-0215.

Helpful tip: The "travel history" page of your I-94 record will provide your arrival and departure dates.

  5. How long do I need to continue filing the Form 8843?
  • After five years in F-1 status, you must take the Substantial Presence Test to determine your tax status. Most F-1 students will pass the test and be considered a resident for tax purposes. That means they will be taxed like a US citizen or permanent resident. Remember, US citizens and permanent residents are taxed on their income from anywhere in the world.
  • Even if you may pass the Substantial Presence Test, you may continue to establish nonresident tax status by filing the Form 8843. Students are allowed to claim what is known as the "closer connection exception" by providing a statement, in addition to the Form 8843, that they:
  1. do not intend to reside permanently in the United States
  2. have substantially complied with the immigration laws and requirements relating to their student nonimmigrant status
  3. have not taken any steps to change their nonimmigrant status in the United States toward becoming a permanent resident of the United States
  4. have a closer connection to a foreign country than to the United States as evidenced by the factors listed in Treasury Regulation 301.7701(b)-2(d)(1), such as the location of their permanent home, family, personal belongings, and business/social/cultural/political/banking activities, etc.
  6. What types of income do F-1 students typically receive?
  • Compensation (wages or salaries) for employment. Let your employer know that your country of residence may have a tax treaty with the US, and that you may qualify for benefits under that tax treaty. If you worked on campus at Pepperdine, or if you received a scholarship that exceeds the cost of tuition (such as a room-and board scholarship), you will receive tax forms from the Payroll Office (see #8 below). If you worked off campus, make sure your employer has your correct mailing address so that you may receive the necessary tax forms.
  • Scholarships that cover "qualified education expenses," such as tuition, fees, books, supplies and equipment that are required for enrollment or attendance at an eligible educational institution, are not taxable. Amounts used for other purposes, such as room and board, or amounts that exceed the cost of tuition, are taxable.
  • Gambling winnings, dividend income, capital gains, and stock market investment profits
  • Interest received on deposits held in banks and savings institutions. Nonresidents are generally not required to pay taxes on interest paid to them by US banks, credit unions, insurance companies, or savings and loan associations.
  7. How should I pay taxes on my income?
  • Taxes are generally prepaid to the IRS by being deducted ("withheld") from your income by your employer at the time you receive it.
  • Taxes on scholarships that exceed the cost of tuition (such as room-and board scholarships) are usually charged to your university student account, and paid to the IRS.
  • Since the tax paid in advance is only an estimated amount, you must file a so-called "tax return" after the conclusion of the tax year to reconcile the amount that was paid and the amount you actually owe.
  • In some cases, filing a tax return will result in a refund from the IRS.
  • If you owe more taxes than the total amount that was withheld at the time you received your taxable income, you must send a payment to the IRS by the filing deadline to avoid a failure-to-pay penalty, which will increase as time passes.
  8. What tax forms should I expect to receive in preparation for filing my tax return?
  • Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement - report of tuition you paid during the tax year, used to claim educational credits that may reduce the amount of taxable income. Nonresidents are not eligible to claim these benefits.
  • Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement - report of wages you received and taxes withheld. If you worked on campus you will receive a Form W-2 from the Pepperdine University Payroll Office or from your non-Pepperdine employer (such as food services or the bookstore). If you worked off campus you will receive a Form W-2 from each of your employers.
  • Form 1042-S, Foreign Person's US Source Income Subject to Withholding – report of income that is subject to treaty benefits or taxes withheld from taxable scholarships
  • Form 1099-MISC - report of miscellaneous payments made to nonemployee individuals (such as independent contractors)
  • Form 1099-INT, Interest Income
  • Form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments - report of state income tax refund received for the previous tax year
  9. How should I file my tax return?
  • F-1 students who are nonresidents for tax purposes must complete a Form 1040NR-EZ or Form 1040NR along with the Form 8843.
  • F-1 students who are residents for tax purposes must complete a Form 1040.
  10. Can I file a tax return if I don't have a Social Security Number?

Individuals who are required to file a tax return for non-wage income must apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN) by filing a Form W-7 along with their tax return.

  11. Do F-1 students have to pay Social Security and Medicare taxes?
  • Income for services performed by F-1 students while they are considered nonresidents for tax purposes is not subject to withholding of Social Security or Medicare (FICA) taxes, which are contributions toward retirement benefits.
  • If your employer withheld these taxes in error, you may request a refund from your employer, or file a claim for a refund with the IRS on Form 843.

Helpful tip: For each year that you do not anticipate filing your tax return as a resident, inform your employer in advance that you do not need to have Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld.

  12. Do I also have to file a state income tax return?

Generally, you must file a state income tax return if you are required to file a federal return. Tax laws differ from state to state. In California, individuals who earned less than the minimum filing requirement do not have to file, however if any tax was withheld by the employer the individual would want to file a tax return in claim a refund, if any, of taxes that were withheld.

  13. What if I changed my status from F-1 to another status?

Special rules apply for F-1 students who change to H-1B status or any other visa status during the tax year. You may be considered a nonresident or resident for part or all of the year depending on the rules. Where expert assistance is needed, the services of a competent tax professional should be sought.

  14. Will the OISS help me prepare my tax return?

Due to legal restrictions, the OISS staff is not able to answer questions regarding individual tax situations.

  15. Where can I get help with my tax return?
  • Use a tax-preparation software designed for nonresidents, such as Sprintax, Glacier Tax Prep, and Thomson Reuters ONESOURCE Foreign National Tax Resource.
  • Consult a tax professional with expertise in nonresident taxation (referral available upon request).
  • Use resources from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website and the State of California Tax Board website.
  16. What are the consequences of not filing tax forms?

You are responsible for mailing the tax forms to the IRS and keeping a copy. Neglecting to do so, or filing the forms incorrectly, can result in severe penalties, including fines and interest on unpaid taxes. It can also impact future nonimmigrant and/or immigrant visa applications. Keep a copy of all of your tax forms. They will save you time when you complete additional forms in the future, and you may be asked by the US government to provide a copy of them.