Students with F-1 or J-1 student visa status must obtain a Social Security Number (SSN) for employment. Students who do not plan to work while studying are not eligible to receive an SSN.
To receive the SSN, follow the steps below:
1. Obtain the On-Campus or Off-campus Employment Verification
Use Templates of employment verification letters on the Forms page. These templates are formatted to meet the requirements of the Social Security Administration (SSA).
On-Campus Work: Ask your UH hiring unit (department) to prepare the on-campus verification letter on departmental letterhead. A person with hiring authority must sign and date the form.
Off-Campus Work: An off-campus organization hiring you must prepare the off-campus verification on corporate letterhead. A person with hiring authority must sign and date the form.
2. Bring the verification letter to ISS.
On-Campus Work: ISS will sign the on-campus form at bottom.
Off-Campus Work: ISS will attach a separate letter to the off-campus verification form.
3. Apply for the SSN at the Social Security Administration office located in the Federal Building at the intersection of Punchbowl Street and Ala Moana Boulevard. You will need the following documents:
- On/Off-Campus Employment verification letter(s)
- Completed application for a Social Security Card, form SS-5
- Unexpired passport (original document, valid for at least 6 months into the future)
- I-20 or DS 2019 form (original document)
- Printout of I-94 number (available at http://www.cbp.gov/i94)
- Students working under F-1 Curricular Practical Training: Page 3 of your I-20 must show the CPT approval.
- Students working under F-1 Optional Practical Training: Page 3 of your I-20 must show the OPT recommendation and you must also present a valid Employment Authorization Document (EAD) providing the approved dates of OPT, pre- or post-completion as authorized by USCIS.
- Students working under F-1 Economic Hardship: Page 3 of your I-20 showing the recommendation for this employment and valid EAD providing the approved dates of pre-completion Economic Hardship permit as authorized by USCIS.
- J-1 students working under Academic Training or Economic Hardship must also present a letter from the sponsoring ARO authorizing the specific employment and type, pre- or post-completion, with a specific employer.
SSN and Related Documentary Information for F-1 and J-1 Students:
Please note: The Social Security Administration cannote process your application if your on-campus employment or Curricular Practical Training (CPT) begins more than 30 days from your application date; or the employment start date on your EAD is a future date. See this IRS handout for international students.
- The Social Security Administration (SSA) is required to verify applicant’s identity and visa information with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) before the SSN can be issued. The student’s SEVIS record must be in Active status. New students must be registered for classes.
- The SSA is required to verify your legal entry into the US prior to issuing the SSN. Students new to the US should wait 10 days after arrival in the US before applying for a SSN. This is to allow required identity and visa information collected at the port-of-entry to be entered into a DHS database, and the information transferred to the SSA.
- Students will receive the SSN card by mail. This may take a week or two. You may begin work prior to receiving your SS card, but must present it to your employer within 30 days. If you begin work prior to receiving your SS card, you may prove that your SSN is pending by showing your employer a receipt for your SS application.
- The SS card is noted “Not Valid for Employment”. This wording can be confusing; what it actually means is that on its own (without other documents verifying employment eligibility) an employer should not hire you.
- When you are hired by a US employer, you must complete an I-9 form and show documents that verify both your identity and your permission to work in the US. Documents that satisfy the I-9 for an F-1 or J-1 student are typically the foreign passport, valid I-20 form (F-1) or valid DS-2019 (J-1), the I-94 number printout indicating a student has been admitted into the US for duration of status (D/S), and supplementary documents verifying a specific type of permission to work (such as CPT or OPT permit for an F-1 student, or an Academic Training letter or SEVIS printout for the J-1 student).
- Students hired by the UH may experience delays in receiving the first paycheck, due to SSN processing delays (and/or other delays).
- If you previously had a SSN but have lost your card, go to the SSA to apply for a replacement card. You may need to present all documents listed above as if you are applying for your first SSN card.
- Be very careful with your SSN and with the SS card. Identity fraud in the US is typically related to a stolen SSN. If you are asked to present a SSN for other-than-employment purposes, it may be prudent not to provide it.
What is an ITIN?
The ITIN is issued by the Internal Revenue Service to certain foreign citizens who need a tax identification number to comply with US tax laws. For international students (F-1/J-1) the receipt of a taxable scholarship, fellowship, or grant would be the most common reason to need an ITIN.
An ITIN is a substitute for the Social Security Number (SSN) on US tax-related forms. Anyone who works in the US is required to have a SSN. Therefore, anyone who is working or plans to work should NOT apply for an ITIN but should instead use their SSN on all forms related to income that may be taxable. If you are not yet working but plan to work in the near future, do not apply for the ITIN but instead wait until you have a job offer and then apply for the SSN.
The IRS has outlined a special process for ITIN applications for students in F or J status. The process was in response to an announcement the IRS made in June 2012, requiring ITIN applicants to submit ORIGINAL documents (passport, etc.) or “certified copies” of these documents from the issuing agency as part of the application. Since it is not advisable for international students to be without their passports, and since it is not always possible for international students to obtain a certified copy of their passport from their home country government, the IRS offered an alternative option to allow a university’s Designated School Officers (DSO) to certify photocopies of identification documents used in the ITIN application, and to issue letters verifying their authenticity. ONLY the ISS can provide the DSO certification and verification for international students attending the UHM.
- Complete the W-7 application. (W-7 Instructions). For help, please contact the Taxpayer Assistance Center in Honolulu.
- Photocopy your passport ID page and any pages that have authorized an extension.
- Photocopy BOTH sides of your I-94 card OR if you entered the US after the paperless I-94 system was in place (summer 2013) you must print out your I-94 information from here.
- Photocopy current I-20 or DS 2019
- Photocopy your scholarship/fellowship/grant award letter (if applicable)
- Attach copies of any other supporting documents needed per the W-7 instructions
2. Schedule an appointment with an ISS adviser by calling 956-8613. Tell the scheduler that the reason for the appointment is to request ITIN certification.
3. Mail your application for ITIN to the IRS (ISS adviser will provide you with the address).
If I become eligible for an SSN after obtaining an ITIN, what should I do? The Honolulu Social Security Administration will process your SSN application and issue the number assuming you are eligible, whether or not your ITIN has been issued. However, under IRS regulations you cannot have both the SSA and the ITIN, and it is your responsibility to request that your ITIN application be withdrawn, or if the ITIN has been issued, rescinded. For help, please contact the Taxpayer Assistance Center in Honolulu.
Federal Tax Forms Commonly Used by International Students in the US for 5 Years or Less
8843 (Statement for Exempt Individuals) All F and J visaholders, whether employed or not, are required to file this form (parts I and III only). DEADLINE: varies
1040 NR-EZ OR 1040 NR is the correct tax form for anyone who had US income during 2010. The EZ form is for simple situations and students with NO dependents. 1040 NR-EZ Instructions; 1040 NR Instructions. DEADLINE: April 15
For International Students in the US for 5 Years or More
Should generally file their income tax as a "resident" using form 1040 or 1040 EZ. This does not mean that you qualify for resident status for tuition purposes. 1040 Instructions; 1040 EZ Instructions
Federal Tax Assistance Phone Numbers:
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Assist: 1-800-829-1040 (tollfree)
- Tax Treaty /Non-Resident Alien Questions: 1-215-516-2000 (toll call)
- To speak with an IRS agent in person go to the Prince Kuhio Federal Building (Punchbowl at Ala Moana Boulevard).
State of Hawaii Tax Forms commonly used by International Students in the US (may exceed 5 years of stay)
Form N-15 form-fillable or Form N-15 hand-writable. DEADLINE: April 20
Find the forms and instructions here.
State of Hawaii Tax Assistance Phones:
- General Numbers: (808) 587-4242 OR (808) 587-6515
- From mainland: 1-800-222-3229 (tollfree)
- Taxpayer Advocate: (808) 587-1791
- To speak with a Hawaii Tax agent in person go to the Princess Ruth Keelikolani Building (830 Punchbowl Street).
- W-2 form: Employees send this form out by the end of January each year. The form reports the total income you received from an employer during the preceding calendar year and also totals the amount of withheld funds, (for taxes, social security, health insurance premiums, etc.). All employers must send out this tax form. If you did not receive this form from any employer you worked for in 2008, contact them immediately to get a copy. You should receive multiple copies: one for you to keep, one to attach to and send with your federal tax form, and one to attach to and send with your state tax form.
- 1042-S form: Foreign nationals may receive a 1042-S form if they are recipients of scholarships or fellowships in the US, or tax treaty benefits. Attach a copy of the 1042-S to your federal tax form.
- 1099 Forms: You will receive a 1099 form if you received dividends or interest income. These forms are generally mailed to you from banks and other financial institutions. You may also receive a 1099 form if you were paid as a consultant (not employee) by a US organization.
- Have You Checked for Tax Treaty Benefits? The United States may have a tax treaty with your country of citizenship, and this treaty may limit your taxability or provide special tax benefits. See IRS Publication 901 for details.
IRS Tax Information
NAFSA Federal Income Tax Brochure
- This brochure provides information to help you understand US taxation and to prepare you to complete your tax forms.
Other Professional Tax Preparation Services
There are many commercial tax preparation services in Honolulu. Students may wish to use one of these services. ISS recommends that students who hire a tax preparer verify that the preparer is familiar and has experience with non-resident tax forms.
Publication 4011: Foreign Student and Scholar Volunteer Resource Guide
- Guide for use in preparing tax returns.
International students are generally classified as Non-Residents for state taxation.
State tax form N-15 should be completed by international students who earned a specified amount of US income in Hawaii (see N-15 instructions for exact amount) or who received taxable scholarship monies from a US/Hawaii source (taxable scholarships are funds received for living expenses; tax-exempt scholarships are funds received for tuition and required fees).
The N-15 is used to calculate the correct payment due to the state of Hawaii for the calendar year. Students who have had state tax withheld may have overpaid or may have underpaid. Students who earned less than a certain amount (see instructions) do not need to file a state tax form. However, to calculate/request a refund for the state taxes you paid, you must submit the N-15 form by April 20.
The State Taxpayer Education Office provides limited in-person assistance at the state tax office building, between 7:30 am and 4:30 pm weekdays.
- Address: Princess Ruth Keelikolani Bldg, 830 Punchbowl Street
- Telephone assistance: (808) 587-4242
- Taxpayer Advocate: (808) 587-1791
- From the mainland or neighbor islands: 1-800-222-3229 (toll free)
- Email: Taxpayer.Services@hawaii.edu
There are two versions of the N-15 form. One is form fillable, and you may print but not save your completed TYPED form. The form may NOT be submitted electronically. The second version is noted “hand-writable”. You can print the form and complete with pen. Note that when you mail your N-15 form, you must attach a copy of your federal tax form 1040 NR or 1040 NR-EZ to your N- 15 form. Also, the state of Hawaii does not recognize tax treaties your country has with the US that may reduce your federal taxes. Please note that ISS advisers and staff are not tax experts and are not authorized to assist students with completing individual tax forms. Students may wish to use a professional, paid tax service to assist in preparing your forms. ISS recommends that students who hire a tax preparer verify that the preparer has experience with Non-Resident tax preparation.