Student Travel

Good to know

On your first day of employment, you will meet with Human Resources or your supervisor to fill out your paperwork. You should bring the following documents with you on your first day:

  • Passport with J-1 Visa
  • DS-2019 Form
  • I-94 Card
  • Proof of Application for your Social Security Number
  • Social Security Number (upon receipt)

Some employers may not be aware that you can start work or receive a paycheck without an actual Social Security Number. If your employer has told you that you cannot begin work without this, give them a copy of the Legal Opinion Letter and Dear Employer Letter which can be found in the Document Download section. These letters give the employer information about your legal work status while you are waiting for your Social Security Number and information about setting up your payroll, Social Security, and deducting the appropriate amount of taxes from your paycheck.

Your employer will ask you to complete several documents—an I-9 Form, a W-4 Form, and in some cases, a State W-4 Form. You will have to complete those documents for every employer you work for in the U.S.

Important Documents

I-9 Form
This confirms your employment eligibility in the U.S. and you will fill it out with your employer. When completing the I-9 form, you only have to fill out Section 1 and give your full name, U.S. address, date of birth, and Social Security Number. If you don’t have your SSN yet, you can give it to your employer once you do. Put a check mark in the box verifying that you are a non-resident alien authorized to work in the U.S. and fill in your DS-2019 end date. Sign and date the form.

Federal W-4 Form
This form will determine the federal tax that will be deducted from your paycheck. Work with Human Resources to ensure that you fill the form out correctly, so that you are not over or under taxed, resulting in possible penalties. Note that you must complete a new W-4 Form if you change your employer or have more than one job.

Note that you are classified as a non-resident alien, which means that the standard instructions on the form do not apply. Use the following instructions when completing the W-4 Form:

  • Personal Allowances Worksheet: Ignore this section.
  • On the bottom half of the W-4 Form:
    1. Box 1: Enter your personal information including U.S. address.
    2. Box 2: Enter your Social Security Number (SSN). If you have not been issued a Social Security Number but have applied for one, write “Applied For.” Give your employer your SSN once you receive it.
    3. Box 3: Check or fill in withholding as “single,” regardless of actual marital status.
    4. Box 4: Leave blank.
    5. Box 5: Enter “1.” There are no exceptions to this.
    6. Box 6: Write “NR” to indicate Non-Resident Alien status.
    7. Box 7: Leave blank. Non-Resident Aliens cannot claim “Exempt.”
    8. Boxes 8 – 10: Leave blank.
    9. Sign and date the form.

State W-4 Form
This form determines the amount of state tax to be deducted from your paycheck. Although it may look different from the Federal W-4 Form, it asks for the same information and you should complete it as above.

Salary

Check with your employer to learn how often you will be paid. Most students get paid weekly or every other week. Typically you will receive a paycheck that you deposit into your bank account. Some employers may offer the option of direct deposit, which means that your salary will be deposited directly into your account. In either case, your employer will give you a salary statement, paystub, or pay slip, which will show the hours you worked and the amount you were paid. It will also contain information about the taxes and other deductions taken out of your paycheck. Depending on your agreement with your employer, you might also have uniform, housing, union membership dues, or other work-related items deducted from your salary.

After you receive your first paycheck, review it to ensure there are no errors. If you have questions about your paycheck, speak with your employer. Remember that you do not pay Social Security and Medicare taxes – if these were deducted in error, speak with your employer.

Minimum Wage
There is a minimum wage that employers in the U.S. are required to pay. For current information, visit www.dol.gov/esa/minwage/america.htm. Please note that the wage for some positions earning tips (for example waiter or waitress) may be less than the minimum wage.

Overtime
At times, there may be opportunities to work additional hours. As a new employee, it is a good idea to accept these overtime hours when possible. Many companies will pay you one-and-a-half times more than the normal wage rate for extra hours. Ask your employer for company overtime policies.