Federal immigration regulations allow J-1 students to work in the U.S. as long as they have proper authorization. All J-1 employment opportunities require prior authorizations. Before engaging in any type of work (including job trainings, orientations, and unpaid work), make sure OISS has already issued your employment authorization.
Although working in the U.S. can be a great experience, studying and academics should remain the priority for anyone on the J-1 student visa.
Working without proper employment authorization or in an unauthorized capacity is a visa status violation and may lead to SEVIS record termination. This termination would require departing the U.S. immediately and may negatively affect future visa applications or benefits. Meaning it could make you ineligible for H1B status and/or prevent you from obtaining U.S. permanent residency in the future. Examples of unauthorized employment are listed below.
The following sections provide detailed information about being lawfully employed as a J-1 student.
Work Authorization Options for J-1 Students
Click on each link in the boxes below to learn more about each J-1 work authorization option, including eligibility requirements and how to apply.
Unauthorized Employment Examples
Engaging in any of the following examples is a J-1 visa status violation and may result in termination. This list is not exhaustive.
- Working on campus (e.g. TA-ship, dining hall, note taker) without On-Campus Work authorization
- Working off campus (including job trainings and orientations) without an Academic Training authorization
- Working an unpaid job or internship without authorization (see Volunteering section)
- Receiving an honorarium that results in profit, without authorization (see Honoraria section)
Social Security Number
If you have never applied for or been issued a Social Security Number (SSN) you will need to do so within a month of beginning employment. You are not required to have an SSN when applying or starting a job.
Students are only eligible for an SSN if they have a job and obtained an On Campus Work authorization or an Academic Training authorization.
First, you will need to request an employment authorization in the UCSBGlobal platform. When you fill out your request, you'll need your employing supervisor's name and contact information. If you're not sure who this is, make sure to ask the department or company that hired you.
After approving your request, OISS will send you an Employment Verification Letter. You can include this letter in your Social Security Card Application.
SOCIAL SECURITY CARD APPLICATION FOR J-1 STUDENTS
Social security numbers (SSNs) will only be issued to J-1 students who have a UCSB Employer Verification Letter (explained in the section above). In addition, J-1 students must be registered for classes as full time students (graduates 8 units and undergraduates 12 units) before the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) can endorse the employment verification letter.
If a student is submitting this form during their first quarter at UCSB, then that student should wait at least 10 days after OISS has endorsed the employer verification letter before applying for their number. If students apply before the 10 day waiting period, the Santa Barbara Social Security Office will not be able to verify their registration in the SEVIS immigration database.
Students will need the following documents to apply:
- Form DS-2019 and I-94 (printout from https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/)
- Passport (or original birth certificate—if passport exempt)
- One other form of identification (driver license, student card, health insurance card, marriage record, etc.)
- Properly endorsed UCSB Employer Verification Letter
Social Security Administration
122 W. Figueroa Street
Santa Barbara, CA 93101
Phone: (866) 695-6285
Directions from UCSB/Goleta: If traveling by bus from UCSB, take the 24X bus to the downtown MTD Transit Center. The Social Security Administration is about one block from Transit Center.
Please see the Social Security Administration website for further details about applying: https://www.ssa.gov/ssnumber/
Your SSN is a sensitive document/number that should only be provided to authorized personnel or agencies. Keep your Social Security card secure and do not carry it with you on a daily basis.
Unpaid internships/positions are considered employment and therefore require employment authorization. The only instance when working is not considered employment is humanitarian volunteering (e.g. cleaning up a road after a natural disaster). If you have any questions about whether a job requires employment authorization, please consult an advisor before engaging in the job/internship.
Reimbursements & Honoraria
For students who travel to locations away from UCSB for events such as conferences, they may be reimbursed for incidental expenses (e.g. food, travel, lodging, etc.) if there is a "net zero gain." Meaning the student is being reimbursed to cover the cost of their participation, rather than to profit from it. This may require a letter issued by OISS by the request of the organization. The student can contact their assigned OISS advisor to receive this letter.
We caution students who are offered an honorarium and recommend speaking with an OISS advisor before accepting.