What qualifies as employment?
Employment is any work performed or services provided in exchange for money, tuition, books, supplies, room and board, or any other benefit or compensation. Only if you will receive absolutely no benefit or compensation of any kind at any time, then an activity can be considered by the USCIS to be “unpaid volunteering.”
Based on input from immigration attorneys, ISSS cautions F-1 students about “volunteering” in a position which would normally be paid; “volunteering” should be restricted to true volunteer activities, for example with social service organizations, religious organizations, non-profit groups, etc. to avoid having it considered as unauthorized employment. Unauthorized employment is a serious violation of student status and can impact future visa applications.
Review the Volunteering drop-down below to see if your opportunity aligns with true volunteerism. Please contact ISSS if you ever have any questions or any doubt about whether you are authorized to accept an offer of employment.
As an F-1 student at Mines, with an I-20 from the Colorado School of Mines, you are able to work on campus as long as you are enrolled in a full course of study. If offered an on-campus position, your Mines I-20 and completed On-campus Employment Letter are your proof of work eligibility at Mines only.
To be eligible for on-campus employment, you must continue to maintain your F-1 status and make normal progress towards your degree completion. On-campus employment can be authorized for part-time (up to 20 hours per week) during regular academic terms (Fall and Spring) and full-time during regular academic breaks (Winter, Summer).
On-campus employment includes:
- Direct employment for Mines – this includes roles like a teaching assistant, research assistant, library student worker, etc.
- Work performed at an on-campus location for a commercial firm providing direct services to students (Example: Mines Bookstore or Food Services)
Hourly limits you are allowed to work:
- Part-time (20.0 hours per week or less) during your regular academic semester
- Exceeding 20.0 hours per week is a violation of your status and can have a negative impact on your immigration status
- Note: Semester dates are set by the Mines academic calendar and include finals week
- Full-time (more than 20.0 hours per week) between semesters (i.e. Winter break, Summer break if not graduated)
Graduate students: if you have a Teaching or Research Assistantship, it can only be considered part-time or less during the academic year. All on-campus employment must equate to 20.0 hours per week or less. Exceeding this amount can jeopardize your immigration status.
If you have an opportunity for multiple on-campus employment opportunities, please consult an ISSS advisor prior to engaging in work.
When does my authorization end?
Your on-campus employment eligibility ends with the “End Date” on your I-20 unless you complete your academic program early. If you are completing early, you need to consult with the International Office so ISSS may properly manage your immigration status. On-campus work authorization for students transferring out of Mines lose work authorization on the day before your SEVIS record is released to your new school.
Work-study awards are part of federal financial aid packages and are only available to U.S. citizens and permanent residents. As an F-1 student, you are generally ineligible for a work-study position. Some campus jobs are designated as “work-study” positions. The job description might include a statement such as: “position open only to Mines Students who qualify for work-study awards.”
However, there are some cases where the term “work-study” might be used in a general sense and may not necessarily refer to the financial aid award described above. You can contact the office that posted the job opening to confirm whether or not you must have a federal work-study award to be eligible for the job.
Finding an On-Campus Job
Most campus jobs are posted on DiggerNet. To apply for on-campus jobs, you are able to create a DiggerNet account with the Mines Career Center. This database advertises both on-campus and off-campus jobs however, you can filter your search to only look for on-campus jobs. On-campus jobs are also advertised on flyers posted around campus, on office bulletin boards, in the Daily Blast and many other places.
Maintaining Status and On-Campus Employment
Prior to engaging in on-campus employment, you are encouraged to consult with ISSS to fully understand what is possible with on-campus employment. There are many great opportunities available on campus, however not all opportunities will align with your visa status and immigration regulations. Your immigration status is your responsibility, and the ISSS is available to assist you in navigating your visa regulations and what is possible.
If you have graduated, you are no longer eligible for on-campus employment unless you have Optional Practical Training authorization.
Students transferring to Mines from another U.S. School are able to begin on-campus employment up to 30 days prior to the start of the academic semester at Mines. You must have been issued an I-20 from the Colorado School of Mines in order to engage in on-campus work during the 30-day period prior to the start of the semester. Beginning on-campus work prior to this is a violation of your F-1 status and can result in termination. Please speak with an ISSS advisor if you have questions about whether or not you are eligible to begin on-campus employment.
Curricular Practical Training (CPT)
If you have been enrolled full-time for at least one full academic year, or are in a course of study requiring* an internship at the beginning of your program, you may request Curricular Practical Training from the ISSS. The internship or opportunity must be “integral to the established curriculum” of your academic department and degree program.
Curricular practical training may be authorized on either a part-time (20.0 hours or less per week) or full-time (employment over 20.0 hours per week) basis. Students who have been authorized for 365 days or more of full-time CPT will not be eligible for post-completion Optional Practical Training.
*Currently, Mines does not have any degree programs requiring an internship at the beginning of an academic program, nor any degree program requiring internship participation for graduation.
Optional Practical Training (OPT)
Many students at Colorado School of Mines choose to take advantage of OPT following graduation. While you are finishing your academic degree and program, CPT authorization is available at no cost and with direct authorization from the ISSS. Please speak with an ISSS advisor if you have questions about CPT.
OPT is temporary employment authorization granted by the Department of Homeland Security United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to F-1 students. F-1 students may use OPT to participate in employment directly related to their degree following graduation. The initial period of OPT authorization can be up to 12 months.
If applying for OPT, please plan ahead and apply as early as possible. You are eligible to apply during the 90 days before program completion and within your 60-day grace period following completion of your academic program.
OPT is a two-part approval process with the ISSS and the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS can take 3-5 months to review and decide upon an OPT application. If approved for OPT, USCIS will issue the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) necessary for you to begin employment.
Optional Practical Training (OPT) STEM Extension
Certain F-1 students with STEM degrees may be eligible to apply for a 24-month extension of Optional Practical Training (OPT) authorization. This process is similar to the standard 12-month OPT request process. Only specific STEM degrees are eligible for this benefit, as outlined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
There may be many opportunities for you as a student to volunteer while completing your academic degree or participating on post-completion work authorization. There can be a very fine line between volunteering and work as defined by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS).
The U.S. Department of Labor defines volunteering as:
- “individuals serving as unpaid volunteers in various community services. Individuals who volunteer or donate their services, usually on a part-time basis, for public service, religious or humanitarian objectives, not as employees and without contemplation of pay, are not considered employees of the religious, charitable or similar non-profit organizations that receive their service.”
When evaluating if an activity is considered a “volunteer” activity or work, it is important to ask whether or not that type of activity might normally be paid and how immigration officials might view the opportunity when reviewing your record. The following situations might be considered “Employment” under DHS rules and not as “Volunteering”:
- If compensation of any type is received. Any form of compensation, whether in terms of payment, fringe benefits, or “payment-in-kind”, is prohibited. Moreover, if the “volunteer” activities are understood by the international visitor to yield some future tangible benefit conferred by the Mines or non-Mines employer (i.e., a paid position in the future), then those activities are not permitted.
- If the Job Duties are those which are normally compensated. “Volunteer” (i.e., unpaid) performance of job duties that are normally compensated are prohibited. Put another way, unless the job duties being performed or the position being filled is one that is normally performed or staffed by a volunteer, those job duties may not be performed by an international visitor without employment authorization as a “volunteer”.
- If the position would normally be filled through a recruitment process. If the position being filled is one in which the Mines would normally conduct an HR-supervised recruitment, then that position may not be filled by a “volunteer” who lacks employment authorization.
- If the job is training or preparation for a paid position. If the job duties being performed are considered by Mines or non-Mines employer to be preparatory for a paid position – i.e., training or a trial period – those job duties may not be performed by an international visitor who lacks employment authorization.
Social Security and ITIN
What is a Social Security Number?
A Social Security Number (SSN) is issued to track earnings over a worker’s lifetime. You only need to obtain a SSN one time and can re-use the same number and card in the United States throughout your lifetime.
Students holding F-1 status are eligible for a SSN if they are earning money from a U.S. source or organization. Dependents in F-2 status are not eligible for a SSN. Students who will not work on or off-campus but who receive a taxable scholarship can apply for an Individual Tax Identification Number (ITIN) for tax purposes.
Because the SSN is linked to your fiscal identity, this is a private number that is not regularly shared with others. If you are uncertain if your SSN should be shared with someone, please contact your ISSS advisor. The International Office does not need your SSN. Additionally, never send your SSN electronically through an unsecured method or as an image.
A Social Security number is not required, and often will not be issued, to obtain a driver’s license, sign an apartment lease, obtain a U.S. cell phone, credit card, insurance, admission to an academic institution or other “non-employment” related reasons.
Application Process for the SSN
In order to issue a SSN, the Social Security Administration (SSA) requires documentation that you are eligible to work in the U.S.. The SSA must also verify your immigration documents and status in SEVIS before issuing the SSN.
Note: New students may not apply for an SSN earlier than 10 business days after completing their online check-in through the International Portal. The Social Security number itself is not a work permit.
The documentation required by SSA includes:
- Letter of employment detailing your job title and duties, start date, weekly hours, and supervisor contact information
- Form I-20 showing authorized employment
- Valid passport
- F-1 visa stamp
- Most recent I-94 record
- Form SS-5
Remember, prior to applying for the SSN, you must first have:
- Undergraduate hourly jobs: Your On-campus Employment Letter
- Graduate hourly, fellowship, RA or TA positions: Your ISSS authorization letter sent to your Mines email address – this is issued after all necessary approvals have been electronically received through OnBase
- UG and GR Off-Campus employment: CPT authorization from the ISSS – this must be notated on your I-20 prior to applying for the SSN.
The Social Security Administration (SSA) office nearest the Mines is located at:
- 13151 W. Alameda Pkwy.
Lakewood, CO, 80228
- 13151 W. Alameda Pkwy.
- 1-866-563-9469 (Lakewood)
- 1-800-772-1213 (National)
- Monday: 9:00a – 4:00p
- Tuesday: 9:00a – 4:00p
- Wednesday: 9:00a-12:00p
- Thursday: 9:00a – 4:00p
- Friday: 9:00a – 4:00p
- Saturday & Sunday: Closed
You are encouraged to arrive early to avoid long delays while waiting for a representative to assist you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What does it cost?
There is no charge for a Social Security number and card.
How long does it take to get a Social Security number?
The SSA will physically mail your SSN card as soon as all of your immigration information has been verified. It can take 2-4 weeks or more. You can request a “receipt” to indicate you have applied at the end of your appointment. This will help your Human Resources (HR) team to on-board you quicker.
What if my card is lost or stolen?
You can replace your card for free if it is lost or stolen. However, you are limited to three replacement cards in a year and 10 during your lifetime. Legal name changes and other exceptions do not count toward these limits. Information for how to replace an SSN is available on the SSA website.
What if my immigration status or citizenship changes?
If your immigration status changes or you become a legal permanent resident (LPR), you should inform the SSA office so that your records can be updated. You will need to present documents that prove your new status.
Are my earnings taxable for Social Security purposes?
Please review the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website for information about taxation as a non-resident international citizen.
Can I start working before I receive a Social Security card?
Yes, you can start to work on-campus as long as you are enrolled full-time or are on an annual vacation (Summer, Winter) and have received proper authorization, or off-campus with authorization from ISSS (CPT) or USCIS (OPT). You should work with the Human Resources (HR) team to ensure you have completed everything necessary for on-boarding first.
Tax Filing FAQs
As a non-resident F-1 student, you will need to file tax forms each year with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), the U.S. government agency that collects taxes, even if you earned no income. It is your individual responsibility to research, understand and meet your U.S. tax obligations. Tax returns are due every April 15th for earnings from the previous year, though there are exceptions to this deadline.
While employers do deduct money from your paycheck throughout the year and send it to the IRS, it may not equal the exact amount owed at the end of the year. If too much was deducted, you may be eligible for a refund. If not enough was deducted, you may owe the IRS money. Salary from a job is not the only kind of earning taxed; many types of other income are taxable.
U.S. tax laws can be complex and confusing and the laws that apply to international students and visitors are not the same as those that apply to U.S. citizens. The resources below are meant as guidelines but are not complete. We in ISSS are not tax professionals and this is not legal tax advice. You are advised to review the information from the IRS specifically addressed to foreign students and scholars and use a reputable tax preparation resource for assistance, if desired.
How to File
Currently, you are able to use Sprintax with a special code provided by the ISSS. This code allows you to use this software for free.
The software will lead you step-by-step through the tax preparation and submission process. This is only available to individuals who are considered “Non-Resident Aliens” (NRA) and who have been in the United States for less than five years. For questions while using Sprintax, contact the company directly.
Note: the five-year time frame is based on actual years of presence, not your specific dates of presence. For example, if you arrived on December 31, 2018, that will count as one full year even though you were present in the United States for one day during that year.
If you choose to not use Sprintax, or you are not eligible to use Sprintax because you have been in the United States for five years or more, please review the IRS website for resources available for international students and scholars. You are able to download forms from the IRS Website and file by mail. Additionally, tax professionals and certified tax accountants who charge for their services can assist you with your taxes.
Before You File: Documents to Save
Before you begin the filing process, be sure you have all the necessary documentation available. All documents from employers and other entities issuing tax documentation must do so by January 31. Documents you may receive include:
- Form W-2 Wage and Tax Statement: W-2 forms are mailed to current and former employees. This form shows how much you earned last year and how much was taken out for taxes. You will only receive this form if you have been employed and paid.
- 1042-S: The 1042-S form will only be given to “non-resident alien” students who have received scholarship or fellowship money that exceeds tuition and related fee charges. You will not receive a copy of the 1042-S form if you only have a tuition waiver on your account and do not receive any checks. If you expect to receive a 1042-S form, wait until it is issued before filing your tax return.
- Form 1099-MISC: The 1099 form documents miscellaneous income. For example, if you had CPT authorization to work as an independent contractor, rather than as an employee of an organization, you might receive Form 1099 instead of Form W-2 to document your earnings.
- Form 1098-T from the Mines Controller
- Do not forget to log in to your Trailhead account to download your Form 1098-T from the Controller’s office.
- I-20, Certificate of Eligibility
- Social Security Number or Individual Tax Identification Number
- Address information (current U.S. address and home country address)
- I-94 Travel History
- Academic institution or host sponsor information (name, address, phone)
- Scholarship/fellowship grant letter
- A copy of last year’s federal income tax return, if filed
You may or may not receive all forms listed above. If you are uncertain if you should have a specific form and you have not yet received it, please reach out to your employer’s Human Resources (HR) to verify.
Which Form(s) to Use
Your individual situation determines which form(s) to file. All IRS forms come with instructions available on the IRS website. If you received no U.S. source income in 2014 and you are a non-resident alien for tax purposes, you must file Form 8843.
If you received wages or taxable scholarships from U.S. sources and you are a non-resident alien for tax purposes, you must file Form 8843 and a 1040-NR-EZ or 1040-NR by April 15, 2015. Form 1040-NR-EZ is shorter and limited to specific situations, while the Form 1040-NR accommodates all types of income. You must determine whether Form 1040-NR-EZ or 1040-NR better fits your tax situation. You can use the 1040-NR-EZ if all the following conditions are met:
- You do not claim any dependents.
- You cannot be claimed as a dependent on someone else’s U.S. tax return.
- If you were married, you do not claim an exemption for your spouse.
- Your taxable income is less than $100,000.
- You are not claiming any itemized deductions (other than for state and local income taxes).
- Your only U.S. source income is from wages, salaries, tips, taxable refunds of state and local income taxes, and scholarship or fellowship grants. (If you had taxable interest or dividend income, you must use Form 1040-NR instead of 1040-NR-EZ.)
- The only adjustments to income you can claim are the exclusion for scholarship and fellowship grants or the student loan interest deduction.
- You are not claiming any credits.
- The only taxes you owe are the income tax from the Tax Table and/or unreported Social Security and Medicare tax from Forms 4137 or 8919.
- You are not claiming a credit for excess Social Security and tier 1 RRTA tax withheld.
- This is not an “expatriation return.” See instructions for Form 1040-NR for more information.
- If you do not meet all of the above conditions, you must file Form 1040-NR.
If you are considered a resident for tax purposes, you will be taxed like a U.S. citizen and will file a Form 1040-EZ or Form 1040 instead of the 1040-NR.
- Make photocopies of all submitted documents for your records.
- Be careful to complete the correct form.
- Sign and date all forms, and be sure to mail them before the filing deadline.
- Start the process using Sprintax for all students or scholars who are non-residents for tax purposes.
The U.S. has income tax treaties with many different countries. Residents of these countries may be taxed at a reduced rate or be exempt from U.S. income tax withholding on specific kinds of U.S.-source income. Treaties vary among countries. If the treaty does not cover a particular kind of income, or if there is no treaty between your country and the U.S., you must pay tax on the income in the same way and at the same rates shown in the instructions for Form 1040NR.
Some kinds of income are taxed while others are not. For students and scholars who are considered non-residents for tax purposes, interest income is not taxed if it comes from a U.S. bank, a U.S. savings and loan institution, a U.S. credit union, or a U.S. insurance company. Generally income from foreign sources is not taxed. Wages that appear on form W-2 are taxable. Scholarship or fellowship income that requires services (i.e. teaching assistant) will be treated as wages (like employment). Scholarships, fellowships, and grants may be partially taxed. For degree-seeking students, portions used for tuition, fees, books, supplies, and required equipment are not taxed; portions used for other expenses, like room, board, and travel, are taxable.
Social Security, FICA and Medicare
Non-resident students on F-1 visas, who are also considered non-residents for tax purposes, should not have Social Security or Medicare taxes withheld from pay. If these taxes have been withheld, contact your employer for reimbursement. If you cannot get a refund from your employer, use Form 843 Claim for Refund and Request for Abatement to request a refund from the IRS.
Resident for Tax Purposes
If you have determined, based on the substantial presence test or marriage to a U.S. citizen or resident alien, that you are considered a resident for tax purposes, then you will generally have the same federal income tax requirements as a U.S. citizen. Please note that in this context, the term “resident” applies only to your tax requirements and is not related to your immigration status or tuition. See Publication 17: Your Federal Income Tax Guide.
Individual Taxpayer Identification Number
If you are filing a tax return and are not eligible to apply for a Social Security number, you may obtain an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). A Social Security number or ITIN is necessary only if you are filing a tax return. If you earned no U.S.-source income and are only submitting Form 8843, you do not need to apply for the Social Security number or ITIN.
Please be careful of fraudulent scams and internet “phishing” that use the IRS name or other tax-related references to gain access to your personal information in order to commit identity theft. The IRS will send you physically mailed documents. The IRS does not send unsolicited emails or request personal information by email. It also does not request PIN numbers, passwords, or similar private access information to individuals’ credit cards, banks or other financial accounts. You can learn more about scams on the IRS website and report phishing scams to the IRS. If you feel you have been contacted by an individual who may be scamming, please come to the ISSS for assistance.
Sprintax-Specific Tax Filing FAQs
Who must file tax forms for 2020 tax season?
Even if you did not earn any income, if you were physically in the US on F or J status anytime between 1 January – 31 December 2020, you’re obligated to file a Form 8843 with the IRS (the Internal Revenue Service, or ‘IRS’, are the US tax authorities).
Meanwhile, if you earned more than $0 of taxable US source income, you may need to file a federal tax return with the IRS. Depending on your individual circumstances, you may also need to file a state tax return(s).
Tax Filing Deadline:
15 April 2021 is the last day for residents and nonresidents who earned US income to file Federal tax returns for the 2020 tax year.
Who is considered Resident or Nonresident for Federal Tax Purposes:
Generally, most international students & scholars who are on F, J, M or Q visas are considered nonresidents for tax purposes. International undergraduate students on J-1 & F-1 visas are automatically considered nonresident for their first five calendar years in the US, whilst Scholars/Researchers on J visas are automatically considered nonresidents for two out of the last six calendar years in the US. If you’ve been in the US for longer than the five or two year periods, the Substantial Presence Test will determine your tax residency.
How to File:
We have teamed up with Sprintax to provide you with an easy-to-use tax preparation software designed for nonresident students and scholars in the US. We (and all other university staff) are not qualified or allowed to provide individual tax advice.
After you login to Sprintax, you will be asked a series of questions about the time you have spent in the US over recent years. Sprintax will then determine your tax status. If it determines that you are a “nonresident alien” (NRA) for federal tax purposes, you can continue to use the software to respond to a series of guided questions. Sprintax will then complete and generate the tax forms you need to send to the tax authorities.
However, if Sprintax determines that you are a resident alien for federal tax purposes, you won’t be able to continue using the software.
Step by Step guide on How to File Your Nonresident Tax Forms (F and J)
- Gather the documents you may need for Sprintax
|✔||Visa/Immigration information, including form I-20 (F status) or form DS-2019 (J status)|
|✔||Social Security or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (if you have one)||This is not needed if you had no income and the 8843 is the only form you have to file.|
|✔*||W-2||This form reports your wage earnings if you worked. If you had more than one employer you should get a W-2 from each employer. It is issued by the end of January for the previous year. Make sure all employers from last year have an up-to-date address for you.|
This form is used to report:
If you received this type of income, the 1042-S will be mailed to you by 15 March by the payer.
Note: Only Nonresident Aliens receive this form. If your tax status changes to a Resident Alien you will not get a 1042-S. Login to Sprintax to check your tax status if you’re not sure.
|✔||US entry and exit dates for current and past visits to the US||In addition to passport stamps, you can review or print your US travel history here|
|✔*||1099||This form reports miscellaneous income. Can be interest on bank accounts, stocks, bonds, dividends, earning through freelance employment|
|✘||1098-T||This form is NOT needed and can NOT be used for a nonresident tax return because NRAs are not eligible to claim education expense tax credits.|
- Create a Sprintax Account:
You will receive an email from the international student office providing you with a link to Sprintax to set up your account as well as your unique code to use on Sprintax. This unique code will cover the costs of the federal tax return and 8843 at no cost to you. Open your new Sprintax account by creating a UserID and password or if you have an existing account on Sprintax you can login using your existing credentials.
- Follow the Sprintax instructions
If you did not earn any US Income: Sprintax will generate a completed Form 8843 for you and each of your dependents (if you have any).
If you did earn US Income: Sprintax will generate your “tax return documents”, including either a 1040NR-EZ or a longer form 1040NR, depending on your circumstances.
- (With U.S. income only) If required, complete your state tax return
After you finish your federal return, Sprintax will inform you if you need to complete a state tax return. If so, you will have the option to use Sprintax for an additonal fee. However, it is your choice to use them or to do the state tax return on your own.
- Read the instructions for filing/mailing your returns
Remember to read the instructions that Sprintax provides.
You will be required to download, print and sign your federal tax return and mail it to the IRS. If you have a state filing requirement, you must also mail this to the tax authorities.
Finally, if you only need to file Form 8843, this will also need to be mailed to the IRS.
Need Sprintax Support?
If you need help while using Sprintax, you can contact their support team using the options below
Email – email@example.com
24/7 Live Chat Help
Sprintax Educational Tax Videos and Blog:
You also have access to the Sprintax YouTube account where there are a number of educational videos on nonresident taxes. These will provide further clarity on nonresident tax and how to use Sprintax. Sprintax also offer a range of useful content on their blog to help you file your return.
DISCLAIMER: International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) and the school are NOT permitted to assist any student/scholar with any IRS tax form preparation or tax related questions. The information provided is intended for your benefit. Any questions or concerns should be directed to Sprintax, a certified tax preparer or a local IRS field office.
The information contained in this web site is provided as a service to the international students, faculty, staff, employees and administrators of the Colorado School of Mines, and does not constitute legal advice on any immigration, tax or any other matter. We aim to provide substantial and useful information, but we make no claims, promises or guarantees about the accuracy, completeness or sufficiency of the information contained in or linked from this web site or any external/associated site. As legal advice must be tailored to the specific circumstances of each case, and laws are constantly changing, nothing provided herein should be used as a substitute for the advice of competent counsel. Neither the Colorado School of Mines nor the Office of Global Education is responsible for any errors or omissions contained in this website, or for the results obtained from the use of this information.
International Student & Scholar Services
924 16th Street
Green Center, Suite 219
Colorado School of Mines
Golden, CO 80401
Monday through Friday, 9:00a – 12:00p and 1:30p – 4:00p
Main Office Phone and Email
(303) 273-3210 / firstname.lastname@example.org