Applying for a Social Security Number

If you will receive U.S. sourced income, you will need to apply for a Social Security number (SSN). The SSN is a unique identification number that is used to keep track of your earnings, to collect social security benefits, and to receive some other government services. Other businesses and credit companies may also require your number.

J-1 Scholars: we recommend that you wait 10 business days after entering the United States and 5 business days after your check-in and the mandatory J-1 online orientation to apply for a Social Security Number. 

For the most current and detailed SSN application instructions visit and to locate your nearest SSA Office

California Driver’s License and ID Card

California State I.D.

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.

California Driver License

If you wish to operate a motor vehicle in the U.S. you must apply for a California Driver License. Please note that your home country's valid driver's license is acceptable for up to three months after you arrive in the US -- however not all officers are aware of that law and might issue you a ticket anyway. It is best to get a California license as soon as possible after you arrive to avoid any confusion or problems.

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.