Services for International Students and Scholars

Social Security Numbers & Taxes

What is a Social Security Number (SSN)?

A Social Security Number and Card is your link with the Social Security Administration in the United States. The Social Security Administration tracks how much money you are paying in taxes. Your Social Security Number (SSN) is a nine digit number that is unique to you only and is used for tax-payer identification, income reporting, and other official record keeping purposes. Your SSN card will never expire and you will have the same number your entire life. If you are working and getting paid in the United States then you will need to get a Social Security Number or SSN.

A Social Security Number is an important identifying document. Please make sure that you keep it in a safe place to avoid identity theft. Do not carry your card with you. Keep it in a safe place with your other important papers!

Remember! Social Security numbers are not valid forms of work authorization! Please read the employment section to learn about student and exchange visitor employment on and off campus.

Am I Eligible to apply for an SSN?

You are only eligible to apply for an SSN if you are employed. The U.S. government does not allow those who are not employed to apply for an SSN.

How long does it take to get an SSN?

It takes about 2 -4 weeks for an SSN card to be issued. You are allowed to start working with just a letter/receipt from the SSA stating that you have applied for an SSN. However, this is at the discretion of your employer. Typically, if an employer will be doing a background check they will only accept an SSN number before you can start working. Please talk with the HR department of your employer about their policy.

When can I apply for an SSN?

F-1 Students
  • If you have CPT Authorization – you can apply 30 days before the start date of your CPT
  • If you have OPT Authorization – you can apply after you have both your I-20 with OPT endorsement and your EAD card
  • If you are working on campus – you can apply after you receive your On Campus Employment Letter from OGS
J-1 Students 
  • If you have AT Authorization – you can apply 30 days before the start date of your AT
  • If you are working on-campus – you can apply after your receive your On-Campus Employment Letter from OGS

What immigration documents should I bring to apply for an SSN?

Where can I apply for an SSN?

After collecting all required documentation, you can apply for your SSN with the Social Security Administration (SSA). The SSA has a few locations in the Boston area. When applying for your SSN you will need to go in person to one of the SSA locations.

Generally, there are two convenient locations for Northeastern students studying at the Boston campus:

Social Security Administration
10 Causeway Street
Boston, MA 02222

Social Security Administration
10 Fawcett Street
Cambridge, MA 02138

For Northeastern students studying at the Seattle campus:

Social Security Administration
Suite 901
915 2nd Ave, Seattle, WA 98174

If you are not located in Boston or Seattle you can find the nearest Social Security Office near you here.

Important Disclaimer

The information on OGS webpage is provided as guidance and is not intended to be legal tax advice. The staff of OGS are not tax specialists and are NOT qualified to answer international students/scholars questions regarding taxes. If you believe you have a complicated tax issue, please consult the U.S. Internal Revenue Service (IRS), local and state tax agencies and tax professionals for advice and guidance regarding your individual tax situations.

Tax Information

International students and scholars (F or J immigration status) in the U.S. are required to file (Federal) tax returns to the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) each year for the previous calendar year (e.g. You start your degree in September 2016; therefore,  you must file taxes in April 2017). It is a legal requirement to report your taxes even if you did not earn income in the U.S.

To help our international students and scholars, the OGS provides free access to Windstar, an online tax software assistance program. An email will be sent to all international students with log in information by the end of February.

State and Local Tax

  • Some students and scholars must also file a state and/or municipal (local) tax form. For more information, please refer to the respective State Department of Revenue (e.g. Massachusetts Department of Revenue FAQ site).
  • Windstar will help determine your State residence status. If you used the software to prepare your federal tax return it will prepare the forms you will need to file, if it is required.

Note: You may be required to file a state tax return for each state you lived or worked during the preceding calendar year.

Tax Residence Category: Tax Non-Resident/Tax Resident

Tax Residence categories are not to be confused with the immigration terms. The names are classified as non-resident and resident similar to immigration terms, but it is important to know that it is independent from your immigration classification.
For the purpose of tax, residence is defined based on the Substantial Presence Test (SPT). Windstar, the tax preparation software we offer to international students and scholars will help you determine your tax residence status.

Do I need to file taxes?

YES! You must file federal tax returns if you were in the U.S. for any period of time during the previous calendar year.

If you receive income in the U.S., including wages, stipend, or scholarship funds, you will likely have federal and state tax withheld from your checks.

  • Form 8843: Whether or not you earned income in the U.S. in the previous calendar year, you must file at least the U.S. federal tax Form 8843.
  • Form W-2: If you are employed by Northeastern University and/or any U.S. employer you should have received Form W-2, Wage and Tax Statement that summarizes your previous year’s income and taxes withheld. W-2 documents are sent by the end of January. If you have worked for compensation and not yet received your W-2, please contact your Human Resources department. The OGS does not have access to these forms.
  • Form 1040(s): It is the main form when filing taxes and reporting income. Please, be aware that there are several versions of this form, consult you tax advisor for further information.
  • Form 1042-S: It details your benefits if it applies under a tax treaty between the U.S. and your home country.

Notes: This is not a complete list of tax forms. For more information consult your tax advisor. 

How can I file taxes?

The options are different for tax non-residents and residents. Whichever software you chose, make sure it is appropriate for your tax residency status.

  • For tax non-residents, the OGS provides free access to Windstar, an online tax software assistance program. If this if your first time using Windstar through Northeastern University, you will need to click on the word REGISTRATION. If you used Windstar with Northeastern for your taxes in the past, then you should click the link entitled CLICK HERE.During the account set up process you will be asked to enter an Access Code, which is WXEQ5JZWUL5Q.
    This code provides access to a limited number of students, and is therefore offered on a first come first serve basis.
    Please note that there are other options for filing taxes as tax non-residents.
  • For tax residents, there are further tax preparation programs available such as Turbo Tax, TaxAct, H&R Block Tax Software and QuickBooks.

Deadlines

The Deadline to file your taxes is April 17, 2018. The deadline refers to the date the envelope is postmarked by the post office. For further information please visit the IRS website.

Windstar by Thomson Reuters

The OGS provides free access to Windstar, an online tax software assistance program. If this if your first time using Windstar through Northeastern University, you will need to click on the word REGISTRATION. If you used Windstar with Northeastern for your taxes in the past, then you should click the link entitled CLICK HERE.During the account set up process you will be asked to enter an Access Code, which is WXEQ5JZWUL5Q.
This code provides access to a limited number of students, and is therefore offered on a first come first serve basis.

If you do not have a social security number you will be asked for an Organization ID and Tax Navigator ID, you do not have to provide this information, simply press ‘Next’.

Please note that there are other options for filing taxes.

Resources

Boston IRS Office Contact Information:
Phone Number – (617) 316-2850
IRS National helpline – (800) 829-1040
IRS VITA Program (Volunteer Income Tax Assistance) – 1-800-829-1040

Tax Treaty Information:

U.S. Tax Guide for Aliens (IRS Publication 519)
U.S. Tax Treaties (IRS Publication 901)

Massachusetts Department of Revenue Contact Information:
Phone Number – 1-800-392-6089 or (617) 887-MDOR (6367)

Tax Information Session Video

Form I-9 Acceptable Documents

Please see the following USCIS page for the list of acceptable documents that need to be brought to an I-9 appointment.

USCIS Form I-9 Acceptable Documents