Resources for International Students

Academic and English Support
California Driver's License or ID Card
Getting Around the Bay Area
Information for New CCA Students
Off-Campus Housing Resources
Social Security Number (SSN)
Taxes

Academic and English Support

Learning Resource Center at CCA

CCA’s Learning Resource Center offers coaching in a variety of subjects, including writing skills, software, and academic English.

See Learning Resource Center for more information about coaching, including coaches’ schedules, and how to register for coaching.

English Support Outside of CCA

Many students find they benefit from additional English practice during the summer to maintain the language skills acquired during the year. If you are interested in taking summer classes, visit this List of English Programs in the Bay Area.

California Driver’s License or ID Card

Driver’s licenses and California ID cards alike are issued by the California Department of Motor Vehicles. Visit the website for information how to apply for a driver’s license, the latest version of the California Driver’s Handbook, and all necessary forms. Appointments can be made online.

Getting Around the Bay Area

Transit Websites

  • BART is the metro system in the Bay Area. It is especially useful in getting back and forth between San Francisco and the East Bay.
  • CalTrain provides train service between the South Bay / Peninsula area and San Francisco.
  • MUNI is the bus system in San Francisco. It provides bus and trolley service within San Francisco.
  • AC Transit is the bus system in Berkeley and Oakland. (Additionally, AC Transit operates a transbay bus that goes between Oakland and San Francisco.)
  • 511.org is a good resource for planning trips using public transportation. It provides information and schedules for transit systems all around the Bay Area, including Muni and AC Transit.
  • Google maps has a public-transit option for the Bay Area. It's a useful tool to plan trips.

Transit Apps

  • BART's app center has apps for iPhone, Android, and other platforms. It lets you plan trips and check schedules for BART.
  • iCommute SF Lite for iPhone includes information from multiple transit agencies, allows you to find your closest transit stops, and offers bus and BART routes and maps.
  • AroundMe for iPhones and Androids lets you find nearby hotels, banks, coffee shops, gas stations, etc.

Information for New CCA Students

Off-Campus Housing Resources

Temporary housing/hostels

Hostels can provide a good “landing pad,” a short-term housing option when you arrive and while you are searching for more permanent housing options.

Here are a just a few San Francisco-based hostels:

Finding Longer-Term Housing

This section highlights resources for finding longer-term housing. While most ads are legitimate, be aware of the occasional scam or fake ad.

Always view the room or apartment interior in person before signing a lease. Ask to meet the owner or an official representative when you make a deposit or first rent payment (or both).

If you are asked to mail money for rent or a deposit, wire money, or send money via Western Union, be very cautious; it's probably a scam.

Property-management companies or owners have a right to run a credit check on you, which you may have to pay for (usually $35-$50).

  • Craigslist.org is a popular, local, all-purpose website that provides classified ads for rental apartments, used and new furniture, jobs, internships, cultural events, tickets, etc.
  • Padmapper shows listings on Google maps so you can see where places are in relation to campus or other locations.
  • Apartmentlist offers long-term and short-term apartment rental listings in San Francisco and Oakland. Cities are broken down by neighborhoods, highlighted pricing, noise level, nearby attractions, restaurants, shopping, etc.
  • CCA's Office of Residential Life also posts some off-campus housing listings.

Social Security Number (SSN)

A social security number (SSN) is required for everyone who works in the United States, including international students. Social security numbers are issued by the Social Security Administration (SSA), a US government agency.

International students only become eligible for a SSN once they have been approved for some form of work authorization (on-campus job, CPT, etc.). Remember, a SSN is not a work permit.

You must have some form of work authorization in order to work.

For more information, download our Social Security Card Handout and visit Social Security Number and Card.

Taxes

Filing tax forms is required by law and is part of your responsibilities as an international student at CCA.

The purpose of this section is to give you general information about your responsibilities related to taxes. CCA and the ISAP staff are not tax professionals and can provide neither individual tax advising nor filing assistance.

Who must file tax forms?

All students! Every international student who was present in the US for at least one day in 2013 must file at least one tax form. Please see below for more information.

When do I need to file tax forms?

Tax statements will be sent to you by your bank, employers (including CCA), etc., after January 1, 2014. The deadline to file your tax return is April 15, 2014.

What tax forms do I need to file?

If you did not earn any income in 2013:

  • File Form 8843 (F-1 and J-1 students are categories of exempt individuals)

If you earned income in 2013, you may also need to file a federal and/or state tax return:

  • File Form 8843 (F-1 and J-1 students are categories of exempt individuals)
     
  • For federal tax returns, in most cases, if you have under $3,900 in earned income (e.g., from wages and taxable scholarships) and are considered a nonresident for tax purposes, you may not be required to file a tax return. However, you may still want to file a tax return to be refunded taxes that were withheld from your paycheck.

    The rules about who must file are complicated, so please consult one of the tax resources listed below if you're unsure whether to file.
     

  • If you do file a federal tax return, you will use Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ, if you are considered a nonresident for tax purposes. Most international students are considered nonresidents for tax purposes.

    If you are unsure if you would be considered a resident or nonresident for tax purposes, please look at the Substantial Presence Test or consult one of the tax resources listed below.
     

  • If you are considered a resident for tax purposes, you would use Form 1040 or 1040EZ to file taxes.
     
  • Based on your level of income, you may also have to file a California state tax return using Form 540NR.

    Visit the Do I Need to File? page of the State Franchise Tax Board’s website. (Scroll to the bottom of the page, click "continue," then answer each question to determine if you are required to file.)

Taxes can be very complicated. If you are unsure if you need to, or should, file a tax return, if you are considered a nonresident or resident, or have any other questions about your personal tax situation, please consult one of the resources below.

How do I file my tax forms?

You can either file your tax forms yourself, or you can use a tax preparation company. Many people in the United States use tax-preparation software or pay a tax-preparation company to do their taxes.

To file tax forms yourself, download the forms

  • Form 8843 (even with no income earned, this form is required)
  • Form W-7 (complete this form to request a taxpayer identification number -- if you currently do not have, and are not eligible for, a SSN)
  • Form 1040NR (file a federal tax return if you earned above the minimum income)
  • Form 1040NR-EZ (this is a simplified version of the federal form)
  • Form 540NR (file a California state tax return if you exceeded a specified income)

Tax-Preparation Services

Online resources

Sprintax is online tax software specifically designed for international students. Complete the requested information, and their software will identify all necessary forms to file.

Here are their fees for specific forms and services. (Note: Look for an email in early February containing a discount code for Sprintax.)

  • Form 8843: $14.95
  • Form W-7 (ITIN preparation): $14.95
  • Federal tax return: $35.95
  • State tax return: $14.95
  • Full filing assistance: $75

Gary R. Engler & Company is an accounting and tax-preparation company that also specializes in helping international students. Visit the website for more information.

Glacier Tax Prep is an online tax software specifically for international students. They can help with federal tax returns.

In-person resources

H&R Block is a tax preparation company with offices all over the country, including in the Bay Area. If you go to H&R Block, be sure to let them know you if you are considered a nonresident for tax purposes, and ask if they have a specialist in nonresident taxes. 

IRS VITA Sites The IRS (Internal Revenue Service) has sites where volunteers can help you prepare your tax returns. Please visit this webpage for more information and to find a site near you. As mentioned above, if you are considered a nonresident for tax purposes, be sure to ask if they have a specialist in nonresident taxes.

There are other tax companies and software available. If you find a tax service you want to use and are a nonresident for tax purposes, be sure to ask if they have a specialist in nonresident taxes. If it is an online tax preparation software or service, be sure to check that it will work for nonresident taxes. Some tax professionals are not familiar with nonresident taxes, and some software programs are only set up to do resident taxes, so be clear about your needs and situation.