Personal Concerns

The following information answers many of the common questions current international students ask regarding personal concerns.

Bringing Family Members to the U.S.

Spouses and children under the age of 21 are welcome to accompany you to live in the United States while you study or participate in an exchange visit. They will be issued their own immigration documents, and unless they are Canadian and exempt from U.S. visa requirements, they will need to apply for their own visas.

Bringing someone to the United States can be difficult if you have no recognized legal relationship. This can be the case for people in the following categories:

  • Unmarried long-term relationships
  • Multiple spouses from polygamous marriages (U.S. federal law does not recognize polygamous marriages for immigration purposes)

Employment for Family Members

If dependent family members will accompany you to the United States, their immigration status will determine whether or not they can work. F-2 dependents are strictly prohibited from engaging in any form of employment in the United States. J-2 dependents can apply for employment authorization to the USCIS for a period of one year (renewable for one year periods).

Social Security Numbers


A Social Security Number is the number used to track how much money a person working in the U.S. earns over his/her lifetime. This total amount earned affects how much money the worker will receive from the U.S. government when he/she retires from work.

A Social Security number is not required to obtain a driver's license, cell phone, insurance, bank account, admission to an academic institution or any other "non-work" reason.

F-1 Students

F-1 Students can get a Social Security Number if they have a job they can legally accept in the U.S. This is usually a job on campus or a job done as part of a class taken at the university. If you have found a job, you can apply for a Social Security Number by completing the following steps:

1) Inform International Programs that you have found a job and want to apply for a Social Security Number. International Programs will issue you with a letter for Social Security and assist you in getting an employment verification letter.

2) Apply in person at the nearest Social Security Office. Bring with you your:

  • Form I-20
  • Passport
  • Letter from International Programs
  • Employment Verification Letter
  • I-94 card

New international students who wish to work on campus and recently entered the U.S. with an “initial” form I-20 must wait at least 10 days from the date of their entry into the U.S. to visit the Social Security office to file an application for a Social Security card.

In addition, new students must be registered in SEVIS for at least 48 hours before going to the Social Security office.

When you turn in your application, you will receive a receipt. Keep this in a safe place, as you may need it if your card does not arrive in about 2 weeks after the date you turn in your application.

Federal Public Assistance

Federal public benefits are generally defined by statute as “any grant, contract, loan, professional license or commercial license provided by” a U.S. agency and “any retirement, welfare, health, disability, public or assisted housing, postsecondary education, food assistance, unemployment benefit or any similar benefit.”

Normally, people who have entered the United States with an F visa/status or J visa/status are not eligible to receive any federal public benefits. This rule may be waived if:

  • You are a Canadian-born member of a tribe of Native Americans who are recognized by the U.S. federal government and are defined as eligible for federal public assistance in INA §289; or
  • You are the spouse or child of a U.S. citizens whose petition
    has been approved and who has a pending application for adjustment of status; or
  • You or your child has been battered or subjected to extreme cruelty in the United States by a family member with whom you reside. In addition, you must demonstrate a “substantial connection” between the domestic violence and the need for the benefit being sought. The battered immigrant, parent, or child must also have moved out of the household of the abuser, and the immigrant or the immigrant’s child must have begun the process of legalizing based on the petition of a spouse or parent, or, in certain cases, based on a self-petition.

Oregon Driver's Licences

You must prove U.S. citizenship or lawful presence in the U.S. when you apply for Oregon driving privileges or an identification card.

If you are not a U.S. citizen or a naturalized U.S. citizen, your proof of legal presence in the country must be a valid, unexpired document issued by the U.S. government – such as an Arrival/Departure Record (I-94), Permanent Resident Card, or Employment Authorization Card. DMV will electronically verify the information on these documents using the Department of Homeland Security’s Systematic Alien Verification for Entitlements (SAVE) Program.

Read more about how the DMV uses SAVE to determine a non-resident alien's eligibility for a driver's license or state ID card.

If you are a temporary resident, you will be issued a limited-term driver license, driver permit or ID card. Your limited-term card will be valid as long as your lawful presence status is valid but no more than eight years from the date of issuance.

If there is no definite end date to your authorized length of stay, your limited-term card will be valid for one year from the date of issuance.

If you are temporarily present in the United States, you must show DMV proof of lawful presence every time you replace or renew your card.

Driver's Licensing and Social Security Numbers

Effective February 4, 2008, the identity document standards required in order to get an Oregon driver's license changed. This was due to an executive order signed by Governor Ted Kulongoski. Some people are reporting this will make it impossible to get a driver's licence without a Social Security Number (SSN), but this is incorrect; students who have never been issued a Social Security Number (SSN) can still apply for and receive a license.

Existing Oregon driver licenses and identification cards will remain valid until the expiration of the card. However, if the card needs to be replaced (e.g., lost or stolen), all applicants must meet the new requirements beginning February 4, 2008. The complete lists of acceptable identity and date of birth documents required when applying for a driver license, driver permit and identification card are available at DMV Field Offices or online.

For persons who have a Social Security number (SSN):

  • DMV will compare the applicant’s name, SSN, and date of birth with data on file with the federal Social Security Administration (SSA). If the information does not match, DMV will not issue.
  • In addition to providing a verifiable SSN the applicant must provide at least one identity document approved by DMV, including but not limited to a U.S. birth certificate, U.S. passport, federal Department of Homeland Security (DHS) document, etc.
  • Applicants who provide an SSN that cannot be verified may have to present additional documentation to DMV or work with SSA to correct the problem. A common reason for information not verifying with SSA could be a name changes due to marriage, divorce, adoptions, etc.

For persons who have never been issued a Social Security number (SSN):

  • Applicants must complete and sign a “Statement of No Social Security Number” form certifying that he/she has never been issued an SSN.
  • In addition to signing the statement, applicants who do not have an SSN must provide at least one identity and date of birth document approved by DMV.
  • Applicants who have never been issued an SSN and present a foreign issued passport as proof of their identity and date of birth will be required to provide a valid document issued by the federal Department of Homeland Security that has not expired:
    • Valid US Visa or
    • Valid I-94 Card

Staying Connected with Home


Connect2Canada is an initiative of the Canadian Embassy that seeks to inform people about developments in Canada and Canada-U.S. relations.

The Connect2Canada website has a section specially designed for students that includes links to Canadian student clubs, information resources on travel, visas, taxes, and financial aid that students will find helpful. If you have a Canadian student club or would like to start one, we would like to include it on the Connect2Canada site. The events calendar and Canadian music resource page will keep you informed about Canadian bands and performers coming to your city.

Canadian students are invited to visit and join the network. As a member, you can receive newsletters and updates on a range of topics regarding Canada and Canada-U.S. relations. You can also receive invitations to events and exclusive offers, access to a national events calendar, and opportunities to connect with fellow members.


Optional Practical Training (OPT)

Optional Practical Training is off-campus employment that is directly related to an F-1 academic student’s major area of study. It is intended to provide students with the opportunity to gain paid practical experience in their field of study during or upon completion of a degree program.

An F-1 academic student who has attended one of Pacific's degree programs full-time for at least one academic year may be authorized up to 12 months of Optional Practical Training (OPT)

A small number of students may qualify for an additional 17 months of OPT on top of the regular 12 months through a program called the OPT STEM extension.

Optional Practical Training can be authorized either before or after graduation. Pre-completion Optional Practical Training is OPT authorized to be worked before the student’s program end date. Students with approved pre-completion OPT may work up to 20 hours per week while school is in session or up to 40 hours per week during vacation periods.

Post-completion Optional Practical Training is OPT that begins after the student’s program end date.

For more information, or to apply for OPT, please contact your international student advisor.

Employment allowed while on OPT

All OPT employment, including post-completion OPT, is required by U.S. federal law to be in a job that is related to the student’s degree program.

This employment may include:

Paid employment

Students may work part time (at least 20 hours per week when on post-completion OPT) or full time.

Multiple employers

Students may work for more than one employer, but all employment must be related to each individual student’s degree program and for pre-completion OPT cannot exceed the allowed per week cumulative hours.

Short-term multiple employers (performing artists)

Students, such as musicians and other performing artists, may work for multiple short term employers (gigs). The student should maintain a list of all gigs, the dates and duration.

Work for hire

This is also commonly referred to as 1099 employment where an individual performs a service based on a contractual relationship rather than an employment relationship. If requested by DHS, students should be prepared to provide evidence showing the duration of the contract periods and the name and address of the contracting company.

Self-employed business owner

Students on OPT may start a business and be self-employed. The student should be able to prove that he or she has the proper business licenses and is actively engaged in a business related to his or her degree program.

Employment through an agency or consulting firm

Students on post-completion OPT should be able to provide evidence showing they worked an average of at least 20 hours per week while employed by the agency.

Unpaid employment

Students may work as volunteers or unpaid interns, where this practice does not violate any labor laws. The work should be at least 20 hours per week for students on post-completion OPT. A student should be able to provide evidence, acquired from the student’s employer, to verify that he or she worked at least 20 hours per week during the period of employment.

US Taxes

Each spring, all nonresident aliens who were present in the U.S. under a F or J immigration status during the previous calendar year must file a form with the Internal Revenue Service called an 8843. This form certifies that the time spent inside the U.S. over the past year should not count towards the student or exchange visitor becoming taxed like a U.S. resident.

The 8843 form is required even if a student/exchange visitor did not have any income.

Each accompanying dependent of a F-1 Student or J-1 Exchange Visitor must also file Form 8843, regardless of the individual's age.

Additionally, if an F-1 Student or J-1 Exchange Visitor had income from employment or investments inside the U.S., he or she may need to file income tax forms with both the U.S. federal government and the state of Oregon.

To help with this complex issue, Pacific University purchases a software program that international students and exchange visitors can use to complete their 8843 and, if necessary, federal tax forms. For more information, please contact the Office of International Programs.

Tax Scams

Many criminals use tax season to steal personal information and money from people. They will send fake IRS e-mail messages or faxes asking people to reply with their Social Security Number or Individual Tax Identification Number. Please do not give anyone your SSN or ITIN number in an e-mail or fax. The IRS does not typically use e-mail to write to people about problems or refunds.

If there is a problem with your tax paperwork, you may receive a letter from the IRS in the mail. If you receive a letter, please bring it to our office for help. It could be very important!

Canadian Taxes

Students attending post secondary education outside Canada may still qualify to have the cost of their attendance claimed on their Canadian income tax returns. In order to do this, have the Pacific Business Office complete a form called the TL11A, which certifies the cost of your tuition, fees, and textbooks.