Foreign student payroll struggles

SARAH STEGER | Evergreen columnist

For international students, it’s not so much about getting the job as it is holding onto it.

I initially applied to be a reporter at The Daily Evergreen in mid-2013, but after I wrote my first few stories I was told that getting me onto payroll had become an issue and that I would not be allowed to stay and work until the problem was solved.

More could be done to help the large population of international students here at Washington State University, such as Social Security Number workshops or even a to-do list that explains exactly what is needed for employment purposes.

Being on payroll is one of the requirements of employment. International students like myself are not given a Social Security Number, which makes both payroll and employment impossibilities despite the status of my F1 Visa, which states that working on campus is in fact permitted.

Of course, international students aren’t given an alternative that might permit them to work without a SSN.

I’ve always assumed that with 3.9 percent of the U.S. student population made up of international students, according to The Wall Street Journal, there should be a more flexible method with which foreign students can get onto payroll.

WSU’s Office of International Programs (IP) informed me that to apply for a SSN I would need to visit the Social Security Office in Lewiston, Idaho.

To tackle the transportation issues, WSU should consider putting a Social Security Office directly on campus or within the Pullman city limits.

The majority of international students don’t own cars, but for those fortunate enough to have a car, insuring it without a SSN is often more complicated and expensive.

Social Security Numbers are used to pull credit, claims and insurance history. Often international students without a SSN are assigned to the higher credit tier because they have no proof of their prior insurance and credit history.

Simply put: You’ve got international students without cars needing to get to Lewiston, and international students with cars are unable to drive to Lewiston because they don’t have the financial means to pay for higher credit tier insurance coverage without a SSN.

To be approved for a SSN, students must present and sign the necessary documents at the Social Security Office in Lewiston and then wait several weeks for the U.S. Department of Homeland Security to verify those documents, according to the Social Security Administration website.

Director of Global Services Cheryl Hansen said that to apply for a Social Security Number students are required to have a job offer first. “We verify their status, stamp their job offer, and provide them with an application for a Social Security Card,” she said.

It’s an inconvenience to foreign students to have to wait for a job offer in order to be eligible to receive a Social Security Card.

Not every student comes to WSU to work on campus, yet most students would get use out of having a Social Security Number.

During Orientation Week each semester, the Office of International Programs invites a professional from Lewiston’s Social Security Office to aid incoming international students to complete and mail their SSN application packet.

I was once a brand new international student myself, however, and I remember just how confused and lost I was 90 percent of my entire first semester.

The majority of incoming students are unlikely to already have a job offer and thus unable to take advantage of what help is provided by International Programs, Global Services, and the Social Security Office during Orientation Week of their first semester.

The system is a complicated one, and I understand how hard it is to get around that fact. Even after I received my Social Security Number, I had issues getting onto payroll.

The requirement of an I-90 number arose and took another few days, which interfered with my initial job offer.

International Programs and Global Services, which are both located in Bryan Hall, try to work around the system that can only be described as confusing and frustrating with weekly newsletters and email reminders.

Hansen said that Global Services offers to have the Social Security Cards sent to the office’s mailing address instead of the student’s to decrease the risk of losing the document in the case the student had a change in address.

This stretches out the wait time and poses another threat on the job offer students initially received.

While Global Services officials do everything within their power to make getting on payroll for international students feasible, more still needs to be done. Until being eligible for payroll becomes a simple task, students will be missing out on the opportunities campus employment has to offer.

Sarah Steger is a sophomore communication major from Perth, Australia. She can be contacted at 335-2290 or by [email protected] The opinions expressed in this column are not necessarily those of the staff of The Daily Evergreen or those of Student Publications.