The use of Social Security Number (SSN) in the United States started in 1936 for tracking the workers earning record. This would enable the government to determine the workers' social entitlement and benefits computation (Puckett, 2009). The SSN is a nine-digit number with the area number, a group number, and a unique serial number (Puckett, 2009). The first three digits are the area number, the next two digits are the group number, and the last four digits are unique serial numbers.
International students are categorized into three groups; the F-1, the M-1, and the J-1. F-1 students are academic students who are admitted to colleges, universities, seminaries, academic high schools and other academic institutions (Becker & Kolster, 2012). The M-1 is vocational students or other nonacademic students while J-1 students cover students in the exchange programs. Of these categories, only F-1 students are eligible to work on the campus without approval of the Department of Homeland Security as long as they are attending all the classes and their academic performance is good. In this essay, we shall analyze the policy that proposes assigning a temporary social security number to international students in the United States.
Designing the Policy
According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (2017), immigrant students in the United States are entitled to the same education opportunities as natives of the country based on the supreme court's ruling in Plyler vs. Doe (457 U.S. 202 (1982). Puckett (2009) maintains that in accordance with the initial function of the social security number employment is the only way for international students to get Social Security Number. Before an international student can get the SSN, they must have a job offer. Students who work on campus, those authorized for Curricular Practical Training (CPT) or Optional Practical Training (OPT), and those who work with international organizations are eligible for social security identification. We propose giving a social security number to international students regardless of their employment status.
According to Becker and Kolster (2012), the social security number controversy is the greatest impediment to international students accessing higher education in the United States. The strict vetting, limitations, and conditional granting of the SSN locks many students, especially private, non-scholarship funded students, from pursuing educational opportunities in the country. Since education is the main, and often sole, the purpose of an international student's stay in the US, the issuance of an SSN should be done alongside their admission to the institution of higher learning where they are to pursue their studies.
Implementation of the Policy
A policy requiring simultaneous admission to school and issuance of a social security number would require the cooperation of the Social Security Administration (SSA) and universities (Acquisti & Gross, 2009). The procedures currently established will be followed in granting SSN whereby the student will complete an application for a Social Security Card (Form SS-5) showing their real age, identity, and legal immigration status of an international student.
To get Social Security Number to meet state government requirements, the student must provide a letter on a letterhead stationery from the government agency requiring you to provide the number. The letter must specifically identify you as the applicant, cite the law requiring you to have Social Security Number, indicate the applicant has qualified for all the agencies' requirement except the SSN, and contain the agency's contact name and telephone number. Current rules and regulations on the issuance and use of social security numbers in the country will remain in place.
Duration of Execution
We propose tying the duration of the social security number to the maximum number of years an international student can spend in the United States on their current visa class. According to Becker and Kolster (2012), the US currently gives a three-month clearance period after completion of the study for the expiry of a student visa. The international students' SSN will expire at the same time as their visas, requiring them to apply for permanent residency visas or extension of their stay. The SSN will then be renewed for the duration allowed in their visa, or if they move back to their country, cleared from the Social Security Database. The limited duration of issuance will avoid overlapping with the immigration office and streamline the process of acquiring identification papers for international students.
Enforcement of the Policy
The principal objective of the policy is to improve the status of the United States in the International higher education market. Tremblay, Lalancette, and Roseveare (2012) maintain that, despite having one of the most competitive higher education industries in the world, the share of international students who access education in America is disproportionately small. The restrictive visa issuance policies of the country, coupled with strict social security numbers issuance, discourage many students from studies there. Solving these hindrances while practicing caution to avoid exposing the country to security threats, should be the way forward.
According to the Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction (2017), school workers share no accountability with government agencies for the enforcement of immigration laws. In the implementation of our policy, the government agencies responsible for issuing visas and social security numbers to international students will take the burden of enforcement. The Department of Homeland Security, as the main enforcer of immigration law, and the Social Security Administration, in charge of SSN issuance, will be placed in charge. The administration of international students' SSNs by security agencies in collaboration with institutions of higher learning will ensure that more accommodating SSN issuance does not affect national security.
Incentives for Execution of the Law
The policy recommends that the government give incentives to universities and other institutions that enact policies that simplify the application and issuance of SSNs to international students. Higher numbers of international students in American universities and institutions enrich the labor pool and gives recruiters more diverse and skilled talent to hunt (Tremblay, Lalancette, and Roseveare, 2012). Streamlined SSN issuance and extensions will allow corporates to recruit well-learned graduates and improve the US economy.
Government Agency Responsible for Enforcing the Law
As stated above, the departments that are responsible for the issuance of social security numbers are the Department Of Homeland Security and the Social Security Administration. The body responsible for granting employment authorization to the students is the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services (USCIS). Ten days after settling in the U.S., the student applies for SSN in the Social Security Administration office. The students have to ensure they present original documents or certified photocopies to eliminate the risk of fraud (Social Security Administration, 2017). The DHS proves the eligibility of international students for work and their eligibility for SSN in the process. After the student has been cleared, they apply for SSN in the offices of social security administration. The two departments will continue to work hand in hand to ensure that only qualified students get a social security number and that the SSN issued is used for its intended purpose. Students will now have the freedom to use their SSN to seek temporary or part-time employment without having to answer to the SSA, but the DHS will still have the capability to track their activities in the country as they do with other American citizens.
The policy implementation will make it relatively more comfortable and infinitely less limiting to be a foreign student studying in the United States. No longer will students need affirmation from government agencies to seek temporary employment or be locked out of some privileges enjoyed by American citizens. An open SSN issuance policy for international students will not only improve the attraction of America as a higher learning destination, it will, in the long run, streamline the process of immigration for studies in the country.
Puckett, C., (2009). The story of the Social Security Number. Social Security Bulletin, 69(2). Pg. 55-72.
Tremblay, K., Lalancette, D., & Roseveare, D. (2012). Assessment of higher education learning outcomes. Paris: OECD AHELO Feasibility Study Conference
Becker, R., & Kolster, R. (2012). International student recruitment: Policies and developments in selected countries. The Hague: Nuffic
Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction. (2017). Immigrant student identification: Definitions and procedures. Washington: Washington Superintendent of Public Instruction.
Social Security Administration. (2017). International Students and Social Security Numbers. Maryland: The Social Security Administration
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