939.Foreign Students, Exchange Visitors and International Cultural Exchange Visitors

939.1Is work performed by foreign students, exchange visitors or international cultural exchange visitors covered by Social Security?

Work performed by foreign nonimmigrants temporarily admitted to the United States (U.S.) under sections 101(a)(15)(F), (J), (M), and (Q) of the Immigration and Nationality Act, as amended, is not covered by Social Security if:

  1. The work is performed to carry out the purpose(s) for which the foreign nonimmigrants were admitted to the United States (U.S.); or

    Note: Work by a student or exchange visitor other than that performed to carry out the purpose for which he or she was admitted is not excluded from Social Security coverage. However, if the foreign nonimmigrant has received special permission to work, then his or her services may be excluded from coverage.

  2. Special permission to work has been granted by the Department of Homeland Security (in the case of a student) or by the sponsor of an exchange visitor.

939.2What categories of visa holders does the Social Security exclusion apply?

The exclusion from coverage applies to authorized work performed by nonimmigrants with the following visa classifications:

  • F-1 - Foreign academic students admitted to pursue a course of study at an established school or other recognized place of study approved by DHS;

  • J-1 - Exchange visitors temporarily admitted to the United States (U.S.) to participate in a program designated by the Department of State, Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs for the purpose of teaching, consulting, demonstrating special skills, or receiving training. The J-1 exchange visitor classification includes: alien physician, au pair, camp counselor, government visitor, international visitor, professor, research scholar, short-term scholar, specialist, summer work travel, teacher, trainee and high school, college and university students;

  • M-1 - Foreign vocational students at an established vocational or other recognized nonacademic institution in the United States (U.S.). The course of study must be designated by the alien and approved by the U.S. Attorney General after consultation with the Secretary of Education; and

  • Q-1 or Q-2 - Beginning October 1, 1994, foreign exchange visitors admitted to participate in an international cultural exchange program for the purpose of providing practical training and sharing culture, history, and traditions of the visitor's country. This program is approved by the Secretary of State.

See SSA's electronic fact sheet "International Students and Social Security Numbers," Publication No. 05-1018 for more information.

939.3Is work performed by a spouse or minor child of a foreign student or exchange visitor covered by Social Security?

Yes. Work performed by the spouse or minor child of an exchange visitor is covered by Social Security unless excluded by some other provision of law.

Last Revised: Jan. 25, 2007