Local and Regional Travel
The US is known for its car culture, but the Bellingham area has great transportation connections, making it easy to get around without an automobile. Western’s Sustainable Transportation Office is a wonderful resource for local and regional travel. Call x7960 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org to set up an appointment.
Important transportation note: Do not hitchhike or pick up hitchhikers anywhere in the United States. This practice can be dangerous and is outlawed in some areas.
If you plan on driving in the US, it is a good idea to obtain an International Driving Permit before you leave your home country. Many people are able to rent cars and drive in the US using just their home license, but it is a good idea to get an IDP before you leave just in case. International Driving Permits can only be obtained in your home country – you will not be able to get one in the US. Contact your national licensing authority or motoring association for more information.
When renting a car in the US, be sure to check what identification you will need, as this varies from company to company. Also keep in mind that rental rates are significantly higher for drivers under the age of 25 and most car rental companies do not accept debit cards.
Zipcar is a carsharing program that allows members to rent a car by the day or the hour, so you can reserve a car for a weekend, a day trip, or just for bringing large purchases home from the store. Western has two Zipcars on campus and students, faculty, and staff can join at a discounted rate. If you have a driver's license from outside the US, you will still be able to join -- you will just need to fill out some additional paperwork when you submit your membership application.
If you will be staying in the area long-term and wish to buy a car, consult the Washington Department of Licensing for information on how to proceed.
In the US, driver’s licenses are commonly used for identity and age verification. However, it is not necessary to obtain a driver’s license for the sole purpose of identification. The Washington Department of Licensing also issues State ID Cards which are also widely accepted as a form of photo ID. For more information, see the Identification section below.
A Washington State ID Card looks like a driver’s license and is also accepted as proof of age and identity. It is a good idea to obtain a State ID – especially if you will be visiting venues with age restrictions or purchasing alcohol – as you don’t want to carry your passport around all the time and risk it being lost or stolen. In order to apply for a State ID card, you will need a letter from ISSS confirming your student status. You will also need to present your passport and immigration documents. Please contact ISSS for more information.
Social Security Number
A Social Security number (SSN) is issued to track earnings over a worker's lifetime. Students holding F-1 and J-1 status who are employed in the US and H1B scholars must apply for a Social Security number. Dependents in F-2 or H4 status are not eligible for a Social Security number. Although you may be asked for one, a Social Security number is not required to obtain a driver's license, cell phone, credit card, insurance, admission to an academic institution, or for other "non-work" reasons. The Social Security number itself is not a work permit. In order to prevent identity theft, take care of your Social Security number (memorize the number and keep the card in a safe place — do not carry it in your wallet) and only give it out in response to legitimate requests.
In order to issue a Social Security number, the Social Security Administration requires evidence that you are eligible to work in the US, that you are a full-time student or scholar, and that you have received a formal offer of employment. The Social Security Administration must also verify your immigration documents and status with USCIS before issuing the Social Security number. Note that new students and scholars may not apply for an SSN earlier than 10 business days after arriving in the U.S.
Students who have been offered on-campus employment at Western or other employment should contact ISSS for instructions on how to apply for a Social Security number.