Employment and Taxes
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:
- 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:
- 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)
Curricular practical training (CPT) for F-1 students is defined as an internship, practicum, externship, or other work/study training experience that is an integral part of an established curriculum.
You must be enrolled in a Pepperdine course which includes the CPT activity in the course requirements.
You must receive authorization from your academic/internship advisor or clinical training coordinator to engage in CPT, whether it is paid or unpaid.
Final authorization to participate in CPT is granted by your Designated School Official (DSO) in the Office of International Student Services (OISS). Unauthorized work will result in termination of your SEVIS record, automatically making you lose your F-1 status and start to accrue days of unlawful presence in the US.
You may not begin work until the DSO has authorized your CPT, even if the work is unpaid.
You will only be authorized to engage in CPT for the catalog-published term dates of the course. You may not work before or after those term dates, unless specifically authorized.
CPT may be full-time (20 or more hours per week) or part time (up to 20 hours per week), as required in order to complete course or degree requirements.
If you receive one year or more of full-time CPT, you will be ineligible for post-completion optional practical training (OPT)
The OISS will issue a new Form I-20 authorizing the specific CPT position. You may pick up the Form I-20 5 business days after submitting a completed CPT form and employer sample letter, or you may request to have the Form I-20 sent to you.
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 your SSN application is being processed. Bring the following documents:
- Form I-20 & Form I-94
- 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 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 email@example.com.
- After you have received an email from your DSO confirming that CPT has been authorized in SEVIS, you may begin to work. If you are participating in more than one internship at a time, each internship must have an approved Internship Agreement, an employer offer letter, enrollment in a course, and CPT authorization from a DSO.
- If your CPT is authorized by your DSO, you will be issued an updated I-20 authorizing the specific CPT position. Please allow up to 5 business days for your CPT Request and completed Internship Agreement to be processed. You will be notified by email when your Form I-20 is ready to be picked up. You may also request to have the I-20 sent to you completing the E-ship form to create and pay for a UPS label.
- If your CPT is a paid position, you will need to apply for a Social Security Number (refer to the Social Security and Taxes section) if you do not already have one.
CPT Instructions for Graduate Students
- Submit the CPT Request form along with the CPT employer letter in the OISS Portal. If your CPT will be done abroad, submit the CPT Request form along with the appropriate document that indicates that the academic or career adviser has approved the CPT.
- If your CPT is authorized by your DSO, you will be issued an updated I-20 authorizing the specific CPT position. Please allow up to 5 business days for your CPT request to be processed. You will be notified by email when your new Form I-20 can be picked up. You may also request to have the I-20 sent to you via Pepperdine's inter-campus mail system, or by completing the E-ship form to create and pay for a UPS shipping label.
- If your CPT is a paid position, you will need to apply for a Social Security Number (refer to the Social Security and Taxes section if you do not already have one.
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.
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
Work that is unpaid may still be considered "employment" for F-1 students and must still be approved by the OISS. Do not engage in any so-called "volunteer" activities without submitting a volunteer letter(use sample letter below) to the OISS. The purpose of this letter is to verify that the services you will provide are for public service, religious or humanitarian objectives at non-profit-sector organizations, and therefore do not need authorization from the OISS.
Unpaid internships do not usually qualify as "volunteer" activity. Internships, both paid and unpaid, must be approved by the OISS. Follow the instructions in "Curricular Practical Training (CPT)" to obtain permission to engage in an internship, practicum, or externship that is a part of your academic curriculum.
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
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.
What should F-1 students do to comply with federal tax requirements?
All F-1 students and their dependents must complete the Form 8843 and send it to the US Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to report their presence in the US and claim their nonresident tax status. F-1 students can claim nonresident tax status on the basis of their F-1 visa status for five years. You are considered an "exempt individual," not from paying taxes, but from being taxed as a resident. Residents for tax purposes are taxed like US citizens and US permanent residents, which means they may need to pay taxes on income received outside the US.
To help guide individuals through the tax filing process, the OISS purchases Sprintax, a web-based tax-return preparation software designed exclusively for international students, scholars, and their dependents who are nonresidents for tax purposes. It is available to anyone with a valid Pepperdine CWID and PIN. Users will need their CWID and PIN to access the software. A limited number of free PINs are available on a first-come, first-served basis by contacting firstname.lastname@example.org to request one.
Do I have to submit a Form 8843 even if I did not receive any income?
What kind of information does the Form 8843 require?
In addition to a few biographical questions, you must provide questions. If you were present in F-1 status during any portion of a calendar year (January 1 through December 31), you must fill out a Form 8843 to report the number of days you were present during that year. For example, if you entered the US in F-1 status on December 31 and you were present for only one day in that year, you must file a Form 8843 for that year.
Keep a copy of each Form 8843 that you filed in a "personal tax folder" that you can easily locate each year. Helpful tip: Refer to the "travel history" page in your I-94 record to keep track of each arrival and departure date so that you may report the days you were present each year.
Do I need to file a Form 8843 if I have been present in F-1 status for more than five years?
The answer depends on how you wish to be taxed for income you receive after the fifth year in F-1 status. If you elect to be taxed as a resident, it is not necessary to file a Form 8843. If you elect to establish a closer tax connection to your country of residence and continue to be taxed as a nonresident, you should continue to file a Form 8843 along with additional required documents each year, even though you are not reporting any income. By claiming a closer connection to a foreign country, you are stating that you do not intent to reside permanently in the US and have not taken any steps to become a resident alien, and therefore wish to be considered a nonresident for tax purposes.
What types of income do students typically receive?
- Compensation (wages or salaries) for employment
- Scholarships that cover tuition, fees, books, supplies and equipment that a student is required to buy, are not taxable. Amounts used for other purposes, such as room and board, or amounts that exceed the cost of tuition, are taxable.
- Some students may receive gambling winnings, dividend income, capital gains, and stock market investment profits
- Interest received on deposits held in banks and savings institutions
How do I report my income to the IRS?
You must complete a Form 1040NR-EZ, US Income Tax Return for Certain Nonresident Aliens With No Dependents. If you obtain a job on campus, or if you receive a scholarship that exceeds the cost of tuition (such as a room-and board scholarship), you must make an appointment with the Payroll Office for a "tax interview." During this interview the amount of taxes that will be deducted from your pay or charged to your student account will be estimated, using the information you provide. Your country of residence may have a tax treaty with the US, which may reduce or eliminate your tax. At the end of the tax year, you will receive a summary of your income and tax payments from the Payroll Office, which you will need in order to file the Form 1040NR-EZ. If you are granted permission to work off campus, you must provide information regarding your tax status to your employer for the same reasons.
Taxes are generally deducted ("withheld") from your income at the time you receive it. Taxes on scholarships that exceed the cost of tuition (such as room-and board scholarships) will be charged to your student account for advance payment. The Form 1040NR-EZ is used to calculate the correct amount of taxes owed at the conclusion of a tax year. If the amount of taxes that were withheld or paid in advance exceeds the actual amount you owe, you will receive a refund of the overpaid amount. If you owe additional taxes, you must submit payment with your Form 1040NR-EZ. Keep a copy of all tax forms that you filed. You will need to refer to them if asked for additional information or when filing future tax forms.
Do I 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 contributed toward your retirement income from the Social Security Administration. If your employer withheld these taxes in error, you may request a refund. Helpful tip: For each year that you do not anticipate filing your tax return as a resident, let your employer know that you do not need to have Social Security and Medicare taxes withheld.
What tax forms should I expect to receive at the conclusion of each tax year?
In January of each year, you will receive important tax documents pertaining to the preceding tax year. For example, if you worked on campus you will receive a Form W-2 from the Payroll Office or from your non-Pepperdine employer (such as food services or the bookstore). Be sure to provide a current mailing address to all of your employers and other sources of income, so that you will receive tax-related documents that may apply to you, including but not limited to:
- Form 1098-T, Tuition Statement - report of tuition paid by students during the tax year, used to claim educational credits that will reduce the amount of taxable income. Nonresidents are not eligible for these benefits.
- Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement - report of wages received and taxes withheld
- 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-INT, Interest Income (nonresidents are generally not required to pay taxes on interest paid to them by US banks)
- Form 1099-G, Certain Government Payments (report of state income tax refund received for the previous tax year)
What if I change 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.
Can I file a tax return if I don't have a Social Security Number (SSN)?
A social security number is generally an individual's tax identification number. Since the Social Security Administration requires proof of employment authorization before assigning a SSN, 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.
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 or immigrant visa applications. If taxes were not withheld, and you do not file a tax return, you may receive a letter from the IRS years later, asking you to pay the back taxes, plus hefty penalties and interest.
- Tax forms and publications can be downloaded from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service website. California state tax forms and publications can be downloaded from the California Franchise Tax Board website.
- IRS Publication 519, US Tax Guide for Aliens, includes information on how to determine resident or nonresident status for tax purposes; what types of income are taxable; the effect of tax treaties on tax liability; how to claim exemption by treaty; and much more.
- IRS Publication 901, US Tax Treaties, lists treaties in effect at the time of publication each year, with brief summaries of tax treaty articles relating to students and scholars.
- IRS tax assistance: 800.829.1040
- Automated Refund Service: 800.829.4477