Services for International Students and Scholars

Scholar Employment

A Social Security number (SSN) is a nine-digit number used for tax-payer identification, income reporting, and other official record keeping purposes. SSNs are valid for a lifetime once issued. To obtain your SSN:

  • Attend the Office of Global Services (OGS) Clearance Session after your arrival in the United States, so that the OGS can activate your SEVIS record.
  • Complete Form SS-5 and submit it in person at a Social Security Administration (SSA) office with the documents listed in the Social Security Administration’s instructions, International Students and Social Security Numbers
  • Find the SSA office closest to you: SSA locations, contact information, and office hours online
  • New scholars should wait at least 10 days after arriving in the United States and at least 5 business days after attending the OGS clearance session to apply for the SSN, so that DHS has time to update your electronic record
  • The Social Security card will be mailed to the address you enter on Form SS-5 within two to four weeks
  • Show the SSN card to your employer
  • Keep the SSN card in a safe place.

Read the Social Security Administration’s guide for in-depth information.

All international scholars and their dependents with U.S source income are required to report their annual income by completing tax forms between January 1 and April 15 of the following year.  The available income after taxes may be less than anticipated as scholars may be subject to federal, state, and/or Social Security taxes which can range from 14-30% of total income. The amount of taxes depends on the type of income J-1 scholars receive and their tax status in the United States. In addition, there are many tax treaties between the United States and other countries that could exempt certain earnings from taxes. Accompanying dependents on J-2 visas must complete IRS Form 8843 whether or not they earned income in the United States.

All J-1 holders, including all J-1 scholar categories, are required to file taxes with the U.S. Internal Revenue Service. More information regarding tax filing resources available to international scholars will be provided by Northeastern closer to the IRS filing deadline, April 15 for the previous calendar year. Please note that employers, including Northeastern, are prohibited by law from providing specific tax advice to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and international visitors.

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website provides detailed information on how to file a tax return:

The Massachusetts Department of Revenue (MDOR) offers online tax advice at their website. Their website also includes online FAQs for individual tax filers with information on determining tax status, definitions of Massachusetts residency, and how to claim a tax treaty exemption.

The staff of the Office of Global Services (OGS) are not tax specialists and cannot provide tax advice. To help guide you through the tax process, the OGS subscribes to Windstar, a tax preparation software designed for international students, scholars, and their dependents. Register using your Northeastern email address to set up an account with username and password. The OGS will provide you with a yearly code to prepare your tax return.