Tips for International Students

When you arrive in the United States, you should take steps immediately to establish your identity in this country. This may include obtaining proper identification (ID), starting a credit history, establishing a social security number, and taking necessary steps in order to work in the U.S. The sooner you get established, the sooner you can explore available options!

Social Security Number

A Social Security Number (SSN) is required to receive wages, file taxes, and be eligible for some types of government services in the U.S. A Social Security Number is a nine-digit number issued to U.S. citizens, permanent residents, and temporary workers by the Social Security Administration.

F-1 students are only eligible for a SSN if they have a paid job offer through on-campus employment or authorized off-campus employment. Further details and steps to apply for an SSN.

J-1 students are eligible to apply for a SSN after they have completed visa check-in requirements. Please visit DCISS in-person to submit a Social Security Support Letter Request.

See here for more information from the UCLA Dashew Center.

Bank Account

Check out the detailed information the Dashew Center provides on banking in the U.S.!

Your bank will likely issue you a VISA debit/ATM card (not a credit card), which you can use to withdraw cash and make purchases in stores. This will not count toward your credit history, and you will need to have sufficient funds in the account to complete transactions.

Credit Cards

Often, you can use your credit card in the U.S. for purchases as long as it is internationally recognized (VISA, MasterCard, American Express, etc.). However, use of your international credit card does not build U.S. credit history, which you will need later for things like financing a car purchase or applying for a mortgage. See here for more information from the Dashew Center.

Driving in California

If you are a visitor in California over 18 years of age and have a valid driver's license from your home state or country, you may drive in this state without getting a California Driver's license as long as your home state license remains valid. For more information about applying for a California license, visit the DMV website.

Visit California DMV

Working in the U.S.

Students with F-1 visas can use the Curricular Practical Training (CPT) to work full-time during the summer months between the first and second year of studies and part-time during the quarters.
Students holding F-1 visas may be employed full time for 12 months after graduation under the Optional Practical Training (OPT) program. Students should apply for OPT with the UCLA Dashew Center no later than 90 days before graduation to ensure that they have the Employment Authorization Document (EAD) by graduation so that they can begin work soon after the completion of their studies. This program does not have an annual quota or other restriction, and students do not need a confirmed job offer to obtain the EAD.
Because our program is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) certified, students can apply for the 24-month STEM OPT extension.

Dashew Center Resource Guide

Check out these comprehensive online resources compiled by the Dashew Center for International Students and Scholars to help you transition to your life as a student in the U.S.

View Resource Guide

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