Life in the U.S.
The information provided on this page is designed to help international students and scholars make the transition from abroad to living in the United States:
Having a bank account is an essential part of living in the United States. A bank account allows you to safely store your money and withdraw it easily when you need it. Most banks have accounts especially for students that require only a small deposit to be opened and don’t have a monthly or yearly fee. Banks will usually give you a set of checks and a debit card (which acts like a credit card but only allows you to withdraw money you have in your account) when you open your account. Stevens has a special agreement with PNC Bank; visit here for information about its services.
To open a bank account, you will need the following documents:
Passport with visa stamp
Form I-20 or DS-2019
After opening your account, there may be a short waiting period before you can access your funds; you should keep some cash on hand to use until your other funds are available.
A driver’s license is commonly used as a form of identification in the United States. If you will not be driving but want an American form of identification, ask for a state ID card instead of a driver’s license; your passport also serves as official identification. If you live in New York and are attending/working at Stevens, you may not be eligible to receive a driver’s license in either New York or New Jersey.
What should I take to the New Jersey Motor Vehicle Commission (MVC) to get my driver’s license?
You should have the following documents with you when applying for a New Jersey driver’s license, driver’s permit, or state ID card:
If you have one, a valid international driver’s license. You will not be required to take the driving portion of the test (only the written portion) if you have an international driver’s license.
I-94 Record: You can access the print-out of your electronic I-94 from the CBP website.
Valid visa document to correspond with non-immigrant status:
F-1/F-2: valid I-20
J-1/J2: valid DS-2019
H1-H4: valid I-797
Proof of address: bills, checkbook, bank statement, or university letter
Student ID and proof of enrollment: recent acceptance letter or official transcript
Social Security Card (if you have one).
If you are not eligible for a Social Security card, you may submit signed affidavit from the MVC confirming your ineligibility. The affidavit must be either notarized or signed in front of an MVC agency employee. You must first contact the Social Security Administration to confirm your ineligibility.
For more information, you can call the Department of Motor Vehicles at 1-888-486-3339, or visit the NJ MVC website.
If someone claiming to be a Department of Homeland Security (DHS), or any other government agency, contacts you by phone, by e-mail, by mail, in person, or otherwise, you should ask for the person's full name, government agency, reporting office, and for a government telephone number to call the person back. Next, contact the ISSS office, and we will provide you with the phone number of the office to which the officer reports. You will then be able to call the agency office to verify the information the person gave you, and to verify that the officer who contacted you needs the information requested. The Department of Homeland Security will never demand money from you over the phone or in person, so if a person tries to intimidate you into given him/her money, this should be an immediate red flag that this is a scam.
You should also be aware that in the U.S., you have rights by U.S. law whenever you are confronted by a federal, state or local law enforcement official. Please review information found on the ACLU website about those rights so that you are prepared for any encounter you may have with a law enforcement official.
Important tax information regarding foreign students and scholars can be found on the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) website.
As a nonimmigrant, you should file a federal tax form for every year you are in the U.S., even if you did not receive any income. The two main federal forms that apply to international students and scholars are the Form 8843 (for students and scholars, filed on or before June 15) and the Form 1040 NR/NR-EZ (for all nonimmigrants who work in the U.S., filed on or before April 15); each IRS form is filed once per year. To file state income taxes for work done in New Jersey, visit the State of New Jersey Tax website; to file state income taxes for work done in New York state, visit the State of New York tax website. For any other states, please refer to that state’s web page for the department/division of taxation.
You can find forms and information on tax preparation as well as brand-name software that can assist you with the preparation and e-filing of your federal tax returns on the IRS website. While ISSS is unable to assist students regarding tax-related inquiries, we recommend reaching out to a tax-filing professional for assistance.