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A Social Security number (SSN) is necessary to receive any income for services while in the U.S. Many non-immigrants are eligible for SSNs because of their visa status in the U.S. Many others are not eligible for a Social Security number unless they have a job offer letter from an employer.

F-1 students are only eligible for SSNs if engaging in lawful employment. Therefore, a job offer letter is required while attending school. If an F-1 student has not applied for a SSN before applying for optional practical training (OPT), once the employment authorization card (EAD) is received, it can be used to support an application for a SSN in place of a letter of employment.

Individuals in J-1 status are eligible to apply for a Social Security number after arrival in the U.S. and are not required to provide any documentation of employment.

Many F-1 students wish to apply for an Idaho driver’s license or state ID card, where an SSN is required. If they do not have a job offer letter, they can apply for a Letter of Denial, which can be used in place of an SSN.

For more information, please visit the Social Security Administration web-site.

To obtain a Social Security card, you must do the following:

  1. F-1 students must receive a job offer letter from your department (see Word template of job offer letter) J-1 students and scholars do not need a letter to apply.
  2. Bring the finished departmental letter to IPO for a “stamp” from a designated school official in the office
  3. Take your documents to a Social Security Administration representative to apply
  • A letter verifying your employment from your department and stamped by an International Programs Office (IPO) school official.
  • I-20 or DS-2019
  • I-94 card
  • Visa
  • Passport
  • Social Security application (available at the IPO)

To obtain a letter of denial take the following to the Social Security Administration:

  • I-20 or DS-2019
  • I-94 card
  • Visa
  • Passport
  • Social Security application (available at the IPO)

A Letter of Denial can be used to show proof that a student does not qualify to receive a Social Security number. This letter is most commonly used to obtain a cell-phone or driver's license.

Where to Apply

There are three ways to apply for a Social Security card.

  1. Wait for a Social Security representative to visit Moscow. Email to request the dates and times of the next time the Social Security representative will be in Moscow.
  2. Make arrangements to travel to the Social Security Office in Lewiston. The Social Security Office in Lewiston is located at 1617 19th Avenue. The office is open from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m., and can be contacted at 208-746-2995.
  3. Every fall and spring semester a Social Security representative comes to our New International Student Orientation to collect applications.

The Moscow Valley Transit bus goes from Moscow to Lewiston. For times and reservations, call 208-883-7747.

Graduating F-1 students can apply for OPT up to 90 days before and up to 60 days after they complete their academic programs. As there are many delays in USCIS processing, students are encouraged to apply as early as possible. Please watch the Post-Completion OPT Workshop training video below and follow the instructions carefully. Although IPO provides application information, the OPT application is your application. The IPO does not approve the application or have the authority to influence the application timeline.

To apply for OPT you must first obtain a new Form I-20 from the office of International Services documenting eligibility for OPT and subsequently submit an application for employment authorization to the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. You may not begin working on OPT until you receive the employment authorization card (EAD) from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS).

Post-Completion Optional Practical Training Workshop Training Video

For instructions on how to apply for OPT and further information about rules and regulations you must watch the Post-Completion OPT Workshop training video and follow the instructions carefully.

24-month OPT Extension for Science, Technology, Engineering or Math (STEM)

Former students who received a degree in science, technology, engineering or math may be eligible for an additional 24-month extension of OPT, which they must apply for before the expiration of the initial period of OPT.

Download the STEM OPT Extension Form.

To qualify for a STEM extension a student must meet the following criteria:

  1. Currently employed during the initial period of post-completion OPT by an employer who is registered with the U.S. government's E-Verify program; and
  2. Has received a degree in a STEM field and employed in a position that directly relates to that degree; and
  3. Otherwise maintains all of the terms and conditions of F-1 visa status.

To confirm that a STEM field of study appears on your Form I-20, please contact International Services. Visit the Department of Homeland Security website for more information on the E-Verify program.

F-1 Student Post-Completion OPT Responsibilities

All F-1 students on post-completion OPT must report the following to International Services within ten days of any change:

  • Any change in residential address and email address
  • Any change in employer
  • Any change in employer address
  • Any interruption in employment

In addition to the above reporting requirements:

Students in the 24-month STEM extension must report the following at the time of extension and every six months thereafter to International Services:

  • Current residential address and email address
  • Current employer (or report an interruption in employment)
  • Current employer address

A loss of F-1 status will result from:

  • Failure to provide International Services with information about a change in address or employment within ten days of any change
  • Failure to report address and employment information to International Services at the beginning of any STEM extension and every six months thereafter
  • Unemployment for a total of 90 days during the initial OPT period
  • Unemployment for a total of 150 days during the initial OPT period and STEM extension

H-1B "Cap-Gap"

A former student using post-completion OPT who is the beneficiary of an H-1B petition on his or her behalf is eligible to remain in the U.S. and work pursuant to OPT after the expiration of OPT if:

  1. A timely cap subject H-1B petition on the former student's behalf that is pending or approved;
  2. The start date of the H-1B petition is October 1 of the same calendar year; and
  3. The former student has otherwise maintained all the terms and conditions of his or her F-1 visa status.

Note that if the above-referenced H-1B petition is rejected, revoked, withdrawn or denied, the student's employment authorization immediately terminates and he or she enters the F-1 grace period.

Curricular Practical Training (CPT) requires the pursuit of employment to fulfill a specific academic requirement.

  • The employment must be either required for the degree program, or must be a specific course within the major field of study, or;
  • If the employment is not required, then it must bear credit within the student's major degree program. The course that will satisfy this requirement must be specifically named on the CPT application's Adviser Recommendation.

CPT requires a specific job offer and must be approved by the academic adviser. Once a job is offered and the academic adviser's approval and proof of registration for the credits are obtained, final authorization for CPT will be granted by the office of International Services and noted on a newly-produced Form I-20. Unlike OPT, you do not need to submit an application to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services.

Curricular Practical Training Instructions

To apply for CPT you must make an appointment with International Services or attend a Practical Training Workshop to receive the application and review the CPT regulations.

International Programs Office

Physical Address:
901 Paradise Creek St.
LLC Bldg. #3
Moscow, ID 83844

Mailing Address:
875 Perimeter Drive
MS 1250
Moscow, ID 83844-1250

COVID-19 Information for international students, employees and scholars

Phone: 208-885-8984

Fax: 208-885-2859