What’s the Deal? 

Dollar bills

Are you a student receiving Supplemental Security Income (SSI)? Are you unsure if having a job will disqualify you from receiving the SSI? Thankfully, the Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE) is your friend. I know, I know, SSI and SEIE are probably not your favorite topics of reading material, but stick with me. If you’re like most students, you’re probably not exactly swimming in cash, so any new way to save and stretch your money is worth investigating, right? Right. Read on to see how the SEIE can protect your SSI, leaving more money on your bottom line. 

What Exactly is the Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE)?  

  • The SEIE is a work incentive through the Social Security Administration that allows qualifying individuals to exclude a certain amount of their income from their official earnings—meaning you can access more or all of your SSI. 
  • In 2023, the federal SSI rate is $914. Your state may even supplement the federal rate, meaning you may receive a higher monthly amount. The monthly SEIE is $2,040 with an annual maximum of $8,950. [This is up a few hundred dollars (specifically, 8.7%) from last year’s figures.] This means that if you make less than $2,040 a month—and you work only during the summer months—your SSI check isn’t affected.  
  • The annual SEIE maximum applies to the true calendar year, so it begins in January and ends in December.  
  • You can’t apportion (split up) the amount of the SEIE applied in a given month. This means that once you hit a given month’s limit, no exclusions under this work incentive can apply until the following month. 
  • The Social Security Administration usually adjusts the monthly and annual limits yearly to account for increased living costs.  

How is the SEIE Helpful to Me?  

  • Excluding part of your earned income is helpful because it allows you to keep more of your SSI check in your pocket (or bank account). 
  • With the SEIE incentive on the books, you can test your ability to work and gain beneficial work experience without suffering a significant, or maybe even any, reduction in your SSI check. 
  • In addition to the SEIE (applied first before other work incentives), people who are blind or low vision (regardless of age) can also reduce their countable earnings by using Blind Work Expenses. For more info on BWE expenses that you can also use to reduce your countable income, go here: https://www.ssa.gov/ssi/spotlights/spot-blind-work.htm.  

What are the Qualifications? 

Ready to figure out if you can claim this exclusion? To qualify for the Student Earned Income Exclusion (SEIE), you need to: 

  • Be a current Supplemental Security Income (SSI) recipient. 
  • Have NOT yet celebrated your twenty-second birthday. 
  • Be enrolled in and regularly attending either high school, college, or trade school. See the above link to SEIE info for specifics on what “regularly attending” means to the Social Security Administration (SSA).  
  • Have (or plan on finding) a paid job. 

I Qualify! Now, How Do I Sign-Up? 

If you receive Supplemental Security Income (SSI) and start working, you must report your earnings to the Social Security Administration by the tenth of the month following when you earned the funds. Call 1-800-722-1213 or contact your local Social Security Office directly. You can also pay a personal visit to your local office if you prefer in-person assistance. Alternatively, you can create a my Social Security | SSA account and report earnings this way. However, your work incentives cannot be documented this way.  

  • There is no special form to fill out. You will need to report your student status to an SSA representative. You should indicate your student status in writing when you notify the SSA of your new employment status.  
  • The SSA will verify your student status during your SSI re-determination process or as needed. 
  • School enrollment can be documented through school records, an ID card, tuition receipt, direct communication with a school representative by the SSA representative, or other documentation requested by your SSA representative.  
  • Once the SSA is aware of your student status, the SEIE will generally be applied automatically when earnings are reported; however, confirm the process with the SSA representative, as procedures may change! 

What Happens to My SEIE Exclusion Over Summer Break? 

You will still be considered an active student for the purposes of the SEIE benefit during the summer months when you may not be taking classes if you: 

  • Were enrolled in and regularly attended classes during the semester before the summer break. 
  • Informed the Social Security Administration that you intend to resume classes again in the fall. 
  • In fact, DO resume classes in the fall semester following your summer break. 

If you meet these criteria, you can apply your SEIE to income earned over the summer months. If you graduated and will not return to the classroom in the fall, your last month of classes is the last month you can apply the SEIE to income earned on the job.  

Get Working! 

Now that you know about the Student Earned Income Exemption (SEIE) and how it can help protect your SSI check while you work, earn some valuable on-the-job experience…and some extra dollars! Not only are you increasing your current cash-flow situation, but you’re also starting to build your retirement early, which is wise.