Beginning in 1962, certain services performed by nonimmigrants temporarily in the
United States (U.S.) as academic or vocational students, exchange visitors and participants
in certain international cultural exchange programs have been excluded from the definition
of employment under the Social Security Act (the Act). These individuals have Arrival/Departure
Records (Form I-94) classifying them as F-1, J-1, or M-1 nonimmigrant aliens. Department
of Homeland Security (DHS) regulations provide for authorization for these classes
of nonimmigrant aliens to work in connection with the purpose for which they were
admitted to the U.S. Authorized work performed by nonimmigrant academic students (F-1),
(M-1), exchange visitors (J-1), or cultural exchange visitors under the circumstances
discussed below is not covered for Social Security purposes.
Nonauthorized work is covered unless an exception under Section 210 of the Act applies.
Services performed by nonimmigrant aliens with the classifications of F-2,
J-2 and M-2 (spouse or minor child of the alien) are covered for Social Security purposes
unless an exception under Section 210 of the Act applies.
a. Academic Student (F-1)
Generally, a designated school official may authorize a student classified as F-1
to work on-campus for 20 hours or less per week while school is in session—DHS authorization
is not needed for such work. However, DHS authorization to work is needed:
when employment exceeds 20 hours per week while school is in session; or
if the employment is to avoid economic hardship; or
to perform an internship with an international organization; or
for certain optional practical training directly related to the student's major area
Authorized work by an F-1-student is not covered for Social Security purposes.
b. Vocational Student (M-1)
A student classified as M-1 needs DHS authorization to work in temporary employment
for optional practical training. Such work is authorized only after completion of
the student's course of study.
Authorized work by an M-1 student is not covered for Social Security purposes.
2. Foreign Exchange Visitor (J-1)
A J-1 may be employed only by the exchange visitor program sponsor or appropriate
designee within the guidelines of the program. If the J-1 is a post-secondary student
(college or university) or international visitor and has a letter from his or her
sponsor authorizing work, such work is excluded from coverage. J-1 post-secondary
students or international visitors are not presumed to have employment authorization;
therefore, they must present a letter from their sponsor authorizing the employment.
J-1 high school students cannot be authorized to work. J-1 visitors that are in the
U.S. performing any of the remaining services listed in RS 01901.740B.6. are presumed to be authorized to work and do not need a separate sponsor letter.
Authorized work by a J-1 exchange visitor is not covered for Social Security purposes.
3. International Cultural Exchange Visitor
Beginning October 1, 1994, services provided by a nonimmigrant, nonresident cultural
exchange visitor are not covered under Social Security when performed in the U.S.
as a participant in an international cultural exchange program.
The cultural exchange program provides training, employment, and the sharing of culture,
history and traditions of the country of the alien's nationality. The employer must
be the qualified employer (or petitioner) through which the alien obtained “Q” nonimmigrant
status. An alien in this class is not required to apply for authorization to work
However, non-authorized work performed by cultural exchange visitors outside of the
cultural exchange program is not excepted from Social Security coverage.
NOTE: Prior to October 1, 1994, individuals with a designation of Q are not exempt from
Social Security coverage.