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Important Information

Social Security Numbers

As an F-1 or M-1 student, if you do not have a Social Security number, the college can give you another identification number for registration and enrollment purposes. Social Security numbers generally are assigned to people who are authorized to work in the United States. Social Security numbers are used to report your wages to the government and to determine eligibility for Social Security benefits. Social Security will not assign you a number just to enroll in a college or school.

Applying for a Social Security Number

As n F-1 Student, to apply for a social security number, you have to prove your immigration status and work eligibility.


Immigration Status

To prove your immigration status, you must show the Social Security Office the current U.S. immigration document, I-94, Arrival/Departure Record, issued to you when you arrived in the United States, your I-20, Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status. If you are a J-1 exchange visitor, you must show your DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status.


Work Eligibility

If you are eligible to work on campus, you must provide a letter from your designated school official that identifies you, confirms your current school status, and identifies your employer and the type of work you are, or will be, doing.

The Social Security Office also needs to see evidence of that employment, such as a recent pay slip or a letter from your employer. Your supervisor must sign and date the employment letter. This letter must describe your job, your employment start date, the number of hours you are, or will be, working, and your supervisor’s name and telephone number.


Driver’s License

As an F-1 or M-1 student, you are eligible to apply for a driver’s license. To do so, you will need the following:

  • Your passport
  • Your student ID.
  • Proof of address that you live in campus
  • A letter from the registrar office
  • Your I-20

You do not need a Social Security Number to apply for a driver’s license.


Opening a Bank Account

As an F-1 student, you can open a bank account in the United States. However, some banks require a social security number while others don’t. In Athens, the following banks do not require a social security number to open a bank account:

  • BB&T BANK, 1604 Decatur Pike, Athens, TN  423-745-3476
  • BB&T BANK, 204 Washington Ave Athens, TN. 423-745-2452
  • ATHENS FEDERAL COMMUNITY BANK, 106 Washington Ave Athens, TN. 423-745-1111


Traveling Outside the United States

Before traveling outside the United States, you will need to have your I-20 signed by the registrar before leaving the country. As soon as you start making your travel plans, it is highly recommended that you speak with the Coordinator of International Student Services before you leave the United States. There is a lot of information pertaining to travel that you need to know depending on the validity of your visa, and it is advisable that you speak with the office to make sure you have everything and know what to do before you leave the country.


Student Visa Validity Following a Break in Studies

Students who are away from classes for more than five months can expect to apply for and receive a new F-1 or M-1 student visa to return to school following travel abroad, as explained below. 

Students within the U.S.

A student (F-1 or M-1) may lose that status if they do not resume studies within five months of the date of transferring schools or programs, under immigration law. If a student loses status, unless USCIS reinstates the student’s status, the student’s F-1 or M-1 visa would also be invalid for future travel returning to the United States. For more information see the USCIS website, and instructions for Application for Extend/Change of Nonimmigrant Status Form I-539 to request reinstatement of status.

Students - Returning to the U.S. from Travel Abroad

Students who leave the United States for a break in studies of five months or more may lose their F-1 or M-1 status unless their activities overseas are related to their course of study. In advance of travel, please check the Office of the International Student Services, if there is a question about whether your activity is related to your course of study.

When the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) immigration inspector at port of entry is presented a previously used, unexpired F-1 or M-1 visa by a returning student who has been outside the United States and out of student status for more than five months, a CBP immigration inspector may find the student inadmissible for not possessing a valid nonimmigrant visa. CBP may also cancel the visa after granting the student permission to withdraw the application for admission. Therefore, it is prudent for students to apply for new visas at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate abroad prior to traveling to the United States to return to their studies, after an absence of more than five months that is not related to their course of study.