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Social Security & Driver’s License

Social Security Number

An exchange visitor in J-1 status is eligible to obtain a Social Security number (SSN) in the U.S.

A SSN is required, in most instances, in order to establish mobile phone service with one of the major wireless companies. You will often be asked for a SSN because it has become the de-facto national ID in the U.S. When you apply for your Social Security number, you will need to present the following documents:

  • DS-2019
  • Passport
  • I-94 card
  • Letter confirming current employment and nonimmigrant status (can be obtained from the Center for Int’l Studies).

It usually takes 10-12 days after your initial entry to the U.S. for the USCIS to transfer your nonimmigrant information to the Social Security Administration. For this reason, you are asked to wait at least 10 days from your date of entry before applying for your Social Security number. The issuance of your number may be significantly delayed if you go to the office early and discover that your information is not in the database.

North Carolina Driver’s License

Many international exchange visitors find it to be much more convenient in terms of identification purposes to obtain a North Carolina driver’s license. A driver’s license can stand as your official ID while you are in the U.S., therefore obviating the need to carry your passport with you at all times. Furthermore, many law enforcement officials are often confused when confronted with having to deal with an international and/or home country license.

In order to qualify to obtain a N.C. driver’s license, you are only required to prove that you are residing in the U.S. in a legal nonimmigrant status and that you are a resident of the state of N.C. You will also need to show that you are covered by an automobile insurance policy (liability) when you take the written exam and the road skills test. Detailed instructions about how to apply for the license as well as registering a vehicle can be found at

If you plan on driving during your time in the U.S. but you do not plan on obtaining a U.S. driver’s license, you should have an international license to accompany your valid home country license.