Employment for F-1 and J-1 students is limited, and working without permission is a violation of status and a deportable offense. F-1 and J-1 students may not work off-campus without permission from International Student and Scholar Advising (ISSA).  On-Campus Employment is permitted with certain restrictions. Students must complete employment paperwork with ISSA in order to work on-campus. A Social Security number is required for anyone receiving payment. ISSA can assist you with this process.

ISSA offers workshops every semester which explain the different types of off-campus work permission available to F-1 and J-1 students.

Social Security Number for International Students

Getting a Social Security Number

If you are a J-1 Scholar, this information does not apply to you.  Contact J-1 Scholar Advising at jscholaradv@psu.edu regarding the procedure for Social Security Numbers.

The social security number is used for employment purposes in the United States in order to report wages to the government. The Social Security Administration (SSA) will issue a social security number for employment purposes only. If you have problems establishing a bank account, renting an apartment or opening a cell phone account, see an international student adviser in ISSA. We can help you find other ways to satisfy the requirement with the agency requesting the number.

The Social Security Administration will require that you prove your identity, age, immigration status, and eligibility to work. In addition, F-1 students must provide evidence of on-campus employment from the campus department and verification of enrollment status from ISSA. J-1 students must provide evidence of employment eligibility from the sponsor: if Penn State issued the DS-2019, ISSA will issue the letter; if a programming agency such as IIE or AMIDEAST issued the DS-2019, that agency must issue the letter.

How to Apply

  1. Social Security Card Application

  2. Original I-20 or DS-2019

  3. Original Passport

  4. I-94

  5. Letter from the on-campus employer (see department letter template below) on letterhead including the following:

    • Identity of student employee

    • Job description

    • Anticipated or actual employment start date

    • Employer identification number (EIN) - the Penn State EIN is 24-6000376

    • Employer contact information, including the telephone number and the name of the F-1 student’s immediate supervisor

    • Original signature, signatory’s title, date

  6. Letter from ISSA verifying student status, full-time enrollment and eligibility of employment. To request a letter, fill out the request for Social Security letter in iStart. NOTE: ISSA cannot issue this letter until a student is in registered status.

Local Social Security Administration Office (ask your Campus Contact for the nearest office):

901 University Drive, Suite 2
State College, PA 16801
(814) 238-5035
Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, and Friday 9 AM – 3 PM
Wednesday 9 AM - 12 NOON
Federal Holidays and Other Closings 

Sample Letter

Students must have on-campus employment verification from the hiring department. The verification must be typed on official school or department letterhead and contain the employer's original signature.

Dear Social Security Administration:
This letter is evidence of on-campus employment for (name of student).
Type of job: ____ (e.g. wait staff, library aide, research assistant, etc.)
Start Date: _____
Number of Hours Per Week: _____
Employer Identification Number (EIN): 24-6000376
Employer Telephone Number: _____
Student's Immediate Supervisor: _____
Employer Signature (Original Signature; no photocopy): _____
Signatory's Name and Title: _____