International students and scholars should not, under any circumstance, accept public benefits from the federal, state, county or any other local government agencies in the United States. This includes, but is not limited to, participation in programs such as Medicare/Medicaid, Supplemental Social Security Income, Aid to Families with Dependent Children, food stamps, and subsidized housing. Accepting such benefits can cause you to lose your legal status in the United States and create a bar to your re-entry to this country.
Cooperation between state social service agencies and the INS and Department of State make it possible for an INS inspector or U.S. Consular officer to become aware of an individual who has accepted public benefits. The acceptance of public benefits is interpreted as a declaration that the individual is unable to meet his or her financial obligations (a requirement of obtaining and maintaining status) and thereby rendering him or herself ineligible for F-1 or J-1 status.
Occasionally a well-meaning social service agency, hospital or public housing administrator may offer such assistance not realizing that non-immigrants are ineligible for such benefits. Additionally, even though U.S. citizen children of non-immigrant parents may be eligible for pre and post-natal public benefits, the non-immigrant parent may be denied a visa or re-entry based on the child’s receiving the benefits. Again this is interpreted as the non-immigrant individual not being able to meet his or her financial obligations.
If you will be employed in the United States, including at Hobart and William Smith Colleges, you must obtain a U.S. social security number, which is used by the U.S. government to identify wage earners for tax purposes. The number assigned to international students is not a valid U.S. social security number.
To apply for a Social Security Number (SSN) you must obtain a “proof of work” form from the International Student Advisor confirming your student or exchange visitor status, that you are authorized to engage in on-campus employment, the nature of the employment to be engaged in, and identify the department/office for whom you will be working before being able to apply to the Social Security Administration for a SSN. You must also present your passport, your I-20 or DS-2019 form and your I-94 form. The Social Security Administration office is open Monday-Friday from 9:00 am to 4:00 p.m. (closed on federal holidays)
Social security numbers will not be issued to foreign nationals who are not authorized to work.
A social security number is not required for opening a bank account, registering for school, filing a U.S. tax form or applying for a driver’s license. If you are required to file a tax return and are not eligible for a U.S. social security number, you will have to apply to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) for a Tax Identification Number (TIN) on form W-7. This form may be obtained from the Colleges payroll department. You can also download the form here (you must have Acrobat Reader to view it).
For more information about U.S. Social Security Numbers visit the website or call their toll-free number at 1-800-772-1213