Identification Documents

Applying for a Social Security Card

Sample social security cardIf you are a UC San Diego employee, you must apply for a Social Security Number (SSN).  J-1 scholars in the Research Scholar, Short-term Scholar, and Professor categories are automatically eligible to apply for a SSN; J-1 Student Interns are only eligible if they are being paid by UCSD. 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 Faculty & Scholar Office to apply for a Social Security Number. 

The following documents are required of all internationals to apply for a Social Security card:

Additional documents:
  • J-1 scholars(non-Student Intern category): DS-2019 form
  • J-1 scholars Student Intern category: employment letter from IFSO advisor; contact your advisor or for this letter
  • J-2 dependents: 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

For additional information, visit the Social Security Administration’s website: Documents needed – select “noncitizen” on the left-hand side.  Remember that you are not a “student” for U.S. immigration purposes.

Application Receipt

Upon application for a social security card, a receipt will be issued. Usually, the card will be mailed in approximately three weeks.

Social Security Offices

The nearest Social Security Card Center is downtown San Diego at 109 West Ash St., San Diego, CA 92101. It is open Monday through Friday from 9:00am through 3:30pm. To check on opening hours and other offices and services, visit their website or call (800) 772-1213.

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

California Driver License

Sample drivers licenseThe State of California’s Department of Motor Vehicles 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 you get a California driver’s license if you are in California over 2 months. 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 Department of Motor Vehicles (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.

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 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.

Driving Schools

There are driving schools in San Diego. Check the Yellow Pages under “Driving Instruction” to locate driving schools or search the Internet with the search term “Driving Schools San Diego".

Campus Identification Card

Sample student ID cardTo obtain a UC San Diego ID card, ask your department for assistance. 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 first.

An affiliated card is eligible for the following:

  • Postdoctoral Scholars- Fellow or Paid-Direct
  • Visiting Scholar
  • Visiting Graduate Student
  • Volunteer
  • Family members - spouses are eligible only if the principal is a paid UC San Diego employee.

More information is available at:

Contact Us

International Faculty & Scholars Office (IFSO)
(858) 246-1448

Monday through Friday
9 a.m. – 4 p.m.

Subscribe to the ListServ for International Scholars


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