How To Obtain A Tax Identification Number For The Holder Of A Temporary Student Visa


Most foreign visitors residing in the U.S. with a temporary visa are not interested in becoming U.S. citizens. Holders of temporary visas usually intend to leave the U.S. after a limited duration of work or school. Workers hired for specific jobs are eligible for a Social Security number by virtue of their expected earnings. However, students with a temporary visa must determine for themselves whether a tax identification number is needed.

Although there are several dozen specific visa types, U.S. visas are broadly categorized as either an immigrant visa or a nonimmigrant visa. Immigrant visas are issued to individuals who seek to remain in the U.S. permanently. Nonimmigrant visas are issued to persons who plan to return to their home country eventually.

Work authorization status

Some nonimmigrant visa types carry with them a right to work, allowing the visa holder to apply for a Social Security number (SSN) before starting work. However, students with a type F or type M visa do not receive an automatic right to work. If you are in the U.S with a temporary student visa, you will need a tax identification number if you receive taxable income.

SSN versus ITIN

If you are the holder of a temporary student visa and you earn wages, you will need an SSN. Without earned income such as wages, however, a student with a temporary visa cannot obtain an SSN. If you receive only unearned income such as a taxable scholarship or investment earnings, you will need a different type of tax number, an individual taxpayer identification number (ITIN).

Role of the school DSO

Even if your visa type provides an exemption from Social Security tax and Medicare tax, an SSN is still needed if you have wage income. Before you can apply for an SSN, you must contact the person at your school who serves as the designated school official (DSO). The DSO is responsible for determining if your work qualifies you to apply for a Social Security number.

Work restrictions

A student with an F-1 visa has more work options than a student with an M-1 visa, although both student workers must be approved by their DSO. A student with an M-1 visa may work only in practical training after their program of study is complete. An F-1 visa holder may work on campus during their first school year. The F-1 visa holder may work off campus after the first year if the work is related to their studies.

It is possible to change the status of a nonimmigrant visa if certain conditions are met. Contact an immigration law office like The Ortiz Law Firm for more information about your visa status.

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