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Identification Documents

Note: We recommend that the applicant's name be used consistently in all legal documentation (e.g., SSN applications, Driver's Licenses, etc.) as indicated in the MRZ section of the passport.

Applying for a Social Security Card

If you are a UC San Diego employee, you must apply for a Social Security Number (SSN). SSN

J-1 Scholars: we recommend that you wait 10 business days after entering the United States and 5 business days after completing the registration process at the International Services and Engagement Office (ISEO) to apply for a Social Security Number. J-1 scholars in the Research Scholar, Short-term Scholar, and Professor categories are eligible to apply for a SSN; J-1 Student Interns are only eligible if they are being paid by UCSD. 

For the most current and detailed SSN application instructions visit 

Remember that you are not a “student” for U.S. immigration purposes. When reviewing the instructions make sure to select the noncitizen option. Learn what documents you will need to get a Social Security Card

The following documents are required to apply for a Social Security card:
  • Completed Social Security Form
  • Passport
  • Form I-94 record printed from the USCBP website and/or admission entry stamp in the passport.
  • Additional documents by status:
    • J-1 scholars (non-Student Intern category): Printed DS-2019 form
      • The Research Scholar, Short-Term and Professor categories do not need an employer letter to be eligible for a social security number, Section 4 of the DS-2019 shows your J-1 category. Only student interns need an employment letter.
      • The Social Security Office may confuse your request with a category that does require an employer letter. We encourage you to print out the Social Security Program Operations Manual System (POMS) which shows that your category does not require an employer letter to be eligible for a social security number:
      • Social Security Program Operations Manual System (POMS) - RM 10211.345 "Section A" lists the categories that do not require an employer letter: 
    • J-1 scholars - Student Intern category: employment letter from ISEO advisor; contact your advisor or for this letter
      • only eligible for a SSN if being paid by UC San Diego.
    • J-2 dependents (14 or older): qualify only when they apply for J-2 Employment. J-2 dependents can apply for work authorization and a social security number at the same time.
    • H-1B or O-1 employees: Form I-797
  • OPTIONAL: SSA recently issued an message to all its offices and technicians instructing Social Security field offices to accept digital signatures on Forms DS-2019 as part of exchange visitors’ SSN applications. We encourage those who are applying for SSNs to bring a copy of this message when applying. Click here to access a copy of the Message.

If you experience any SSN related issued due to digital signatures on Form DS-2019, please notify your IFSO advisor.

Upon applying for a social security card, a receipt will be issued as the social security card is mailed. The receipt will not contain your SSN number as that is generated after you depart the SSN office. Please note that there is no change to obtain a social security number.

Social Security Offices

The local San Diego Social Security Office has indicated that you can only receive services from the social security office your zip code is assigned to. This is based on your local/home/residential San Diego address, not your work address. To see instructions, hours and other offices and services, visit their website.

To determine which Social Security Office that provides you services: 

Most UC San Diego Faculty/Scholars tend to live in zip codes that direct them to one of the following offices: 
  • The Kearny Mesa Office (8505 Aero Drive San Diego, CA 92123) -  (866) 331-6397
    • Zip codes this office services: 92037; 92038; 92039; 92108; 92111; 92117; 92121; 92122; 92123; 92124; 92126; 92131; 92142; 92145; 92168; 92177; 92193; 92196; 92197
  • The San Diego Card Center (1333 Front Street San Diego, CA 92101) - (855) 820-0097
    • Zip codes this office services: 92092; 92093; 92101; 92102; 92103; 92104; 92105; 92106; 92107; 92109; 92110; 92112; 92113; 92116; 92118

For bus routes to these offices visit, or visit UC San Diego’s Transportation and Parking Services website.

Campus Identification Card

To obtain a UC San Diego ID card, ask your department for assistance. Please note that there two main types of UC San Diego ID Cards the general UC San Diego ID card and the Health Systems ID Badge. Your department would determine which ID card (if any) you require.

For a General UC San Diego ID Card  - The administrator needs to complete and authorize the Campus Card Request Form. Take the completed form and go to the Student Services Center, 3rd floor, suite 354A. If you are responsible for the fee, it must be paid at the Central Cashier’s Office located on the 1st floor of the Student Services Center.

Your UC San Diego ID Card can be used for a variety of discounts in the San Diego community. 

More information is available at:

California Driver License

The State of California’s Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) does not recognize international drivers’ licenses.


The State of California, however, does recognize your national driver license as long as it is valid and translated to English. We recommend that, if you plan to drive, you get a California driver’s license immediately to avoid the risk of a traffic citation. Keep in mind that automobile insurance is required by law in the United States. Most insurance companies require a valid California driver’s license.

The DMV requires a written test and a road test. No appointment is necessary for the written test, but an appointment and a car are required for the road test. There are driving schools in San Diego; search the Internet with the search term “Driving Schools San Diego".

Scholars in J-1, H-1B, TN, and O-1 statuses must have a social security number in order to apply for a license. Dependents must either show proof of ineligibility for a Social Security Number by getting a denial letter from the Social Security Administration or apply for a number, if eligible, prior to applying for a license.

Temporary permits can be renewed until the card is received.

For DMV locations or more information visit the DMV website.

Please Note: The DMV is often crowded, so allow ample time to complete the process.

State ID for Non-Drivers

The DMV will issue a non-driver’s identification (ID) card. This is a very convenient form of identification, since a passport is not always recognized for local transactions such as cashing checks or admission to an establishment where alcohol is served. The same documents are needed as if applying for a driver’s license and USCIS will have to confirm I-94 status in the United States. A temporary identification card will be issued but it will not have a photograph.

For DMV locations or more information visit the DMV website.