Social Security and Taxes

The Internal Revenue Code section 3121(b)(19) and the Social Security Act allow foreign students, scholars, researchers and teachers in F-1 and J-1 status to be exempt from paying social security and medicare taxes as long as they remain nonresidents for federal income tax purpose.

Foreign students in F-1 and J-1 status are considered nonresident aliens exempt from paying social security/medicare taxes if they have been in the United States for less than five calendar years. This exemption applies to on-campus employment as well as any period of practical training, including post-completion optional practical training (OPT) or academic training, or other DHS authorized employment. Students, who have been in the U.S. for more than five years, are considered resident aliens for federal income tax purpose and are liable for social security/medicare taxes.

Foreign scholars, researchers and teachers in J-1 status are exempt from paying social security/medicare taxes for two calendar years. Spouses and dependents in J-2 status are NOT exempt and must pay social security/medicare taxes.

For more information on this topic please refer to Internal Revenue Service's (IRS) Publication 519, U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens or to Publication 15 (Circular E), Employer's Tax Guide.

If you qualify for exemption from social security/medicare withholdings but your employer has been deducting these taxes from your paycheck, you can request a refund from your employer. If this request cannot be accommodated, you must file Form 843, Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement. It takes approximately 6 months to process your claim with IRS.

Social Security Information

The law which came into effect October 2004, allows international students to apply for a Social Security number (SSN) ONLY if they have an employment offer and the required authorization for the employment. The purpose of having a SSN is for employment only; the SSN should not be required to open a bank account, get a driver license, cell phone or other utilities.

The Social Security Administration Office will process applications for SSN only under the following circumstances:

  1. On-campus employment for students who have been offered a job at UNR. Please refer to Social Security Number Request for the letter required to apply for the SSN.
  2. Curricular Practical Training (CPT) authorization for off-campus employment. You must be eligible and be authorized by OISS to do CPT and this authorization will appear on page 3 of your I-20.
  3. Employment Authorization Document card received from the Department of Homeland Security as a result of your application for Economic Hardship or Optional Practical Training for off-campus employment.
  4. Academic Training authorization for J-1 students only. You must be authorized by OISS to do academic training.

For more information on these employment options available to students please refer to the Employment Information section. To find out about employment and social security cards for dependents please go to Family Info section.

To apply for a SSN, please go to:

Social Security Office
1170 Harvard Way
Reno, NV 89502

Office hours: Monday to Tuesday and Thursday to Friday - 9 am to 3 pm. Wednesday - 9 am to 12 noon
Closed on weekends and federal holidays

Bring with you these documents:

  • Application for a Social Security Card available at OISS or Social Security Office
  • Passport and I-94
  • Form I-20 (F-1) or Form DS-2019 (J-1)
  • On-campus employment letter from OISS (on-campus jobs only)
  • Job offer letter (off-campus jobs only)
  • EAD card (OPT, Economic Hardship)

Refer to International Students and Social Security Numbers for more information and any additional documents required.