This page describes documents that are important regardless of your visa type or status. For more information on visa-specific documents, please see the relevant page according to your visa type.

Keep photocopies of your documents in a separate location from the original versions. Photocopies cannot be substituted for the originals but can make replacing them easier in the event documents are lost or stolen. Guard your documents carefully.

Registration Documentation

U.S. law requires foreign nationals age 18 and older to carry “registration documentation” with them at all times. For individuals in a nonimmigrant status, evidence of registration is your most recent Form I-94 Record of Departure. If you were issued an electronic I-94 record, the stamp in your passport is your registration document.

Social Security Number

Anyone working in the U.S. must apply for a Social Security number (SSN). Payment of salary may be withheld until the number is issued. To obtain a SSN:

  • Review the IRS guidance on Social Security numbers for Noncitizens
  • Use the Social Security Administration (SSA) Office Locator to find the office closest to you. Visit the office to apply no sooner than 10 days after entering the U.S.
  • Be sure to bring the following:
    • I-94 record
    • DS-2019 or I-797 approval notice
    • passport
  • Dependents authorized to work in the U.S. may apply in person for a SSN at a local SSA Office. Dependents do not need to report to ISO prior to visiting the SSA Office. They should bring the following:
    • Passport
    • DS-2019
    • I-94 record
    • Employment authorization card issued by USCIS

The primary purpose of the SSN is to track earnings over a worker’s lifetime. A SSN is not required to obtain a driver’s license, cell phone, insurance, admission to an academic institution or other “nonwork” reason.

Washington State Driver’s License or ID Card

  • For a small fee, the Washington State Department of Licensing issues driver’s licenses, and photo identification (ID) cards for non-drivers.
  • Identification cards can be issued at any age and are valid for 5 years.
  • You may drive in Washington State with your valid home country driver’s license for one year. After one year, you will need a Washington state driver’s license.
  • The Department of Licensing requires proof of Washington state residence for anyone applying for a driver’s license or a Washington state identification card. A list of acceptable documentation of residence is available at the Department of Licensing website.

Traveling within the U.S.

When traveling using public transportation within the U.S., you may be required to show your passport and I-94 record when boarding.