Hosting J-1 Exchange Visitors (Scholars)

Whether a visiting international scholar comes for a few weeks or a few years, they often have questions and concerns for their host department about a variety of issues including housing, various identification cards, library privileges, and parking among others. Many times the ability of an international scholar to access UCSB services depends on how they are affiliated with UCSB.


  • Scholar Paid by UCSB: An international scholar who is paid by UCSB will obtain a “UCSB identity” when the host department enters the individual into the Personnel Payroll System (PPS). With a UCSB identity established in PPS, the scholar will automatically qualify for the services of the Community Housing Office, faculty library privileges, a UCSB Net ID, parking privileges, faculty privileges at the Rec Cen, and workman’s compensation coverage.

Housing and Utilities
Santa Barbara is one of the most expensive housing markets in the U.S. Locating affordable housing with access to UCSB is a challenge for anyone. For visitors coming for less than 12 months, the housing options are even more limited. Generally the department/host faculty will need to help make housing arrangements or at a minimum refer international visitors to UCSB’s Community Housing Office. OISS estimates that an international visitor will need at least $1,680 a month for housing, food and utilities. This estimate does not include security deposit, payment of last month rent in advance, nor costs for furnishings if they are needed.

2008 Average prices for Apartments in Isla Vista, Goleta and Santa Barbara

Room Type Isla Vista Goleta Santa Barbara
Studio $1050 $910 $1050
1 Bedroom $1500 $1440 $1400
2 Bedroom $2410 $1890 $2230
3 Bedroom $3815 $2675 $2930
Room in Home* $755 $710 $750
*Rooms in private (non student) homes usually include utilities.
  • Utility companies may ask for a social security number in order to provide service. If the department calls the company on behalf of the visitor, the company will generally waive the requirement for a social security number.
  • UCSB’s Communications Services offers competitive international telephone services and does not require a social security number for a cell phone.

Social Security Card
Most visiting scholars are J-1 visa holders. Those J-1 visa holders who receive payment from UCSB are eligible to apply for a social security number. The Social Security Office advises that scholars wait to apply until ten days after they enter the United States so that their immigration status can be confirmed when they file their application. Information about the location of the Santa Barbara Social Security Office and the documents required for applying for a number are available here.

Identification Cards

  • California Identification Card & California Driver’s License: The Department of Motor Vehicles issues both driver’s licenses and photo identification cards for non-drivers. The California I.D. card is more easily accepted for local transactions (i.e., check cashing) than is the passport.  Scholars are advised to wait until 10 days after they enter the U.S. to apply for either of these cards so that their immigration status can be confirmed by the Department of Motor Vehicles at the time they apply.
  • Access Card: The UCen will issue an Access Card to visiting international scholars who want a debit card to use on campus. The card contains the scholar’s name and photograph. It costs $25. If the visiting scholar does not have an employee ID number, the UCen will assign a dummy number to the card. For this reason, the Access Card with a dummy number will not be accepted at the RecCen or the Library.

International scholars will need a UCSB NetID in order to gain access to the UCSB wireless systems.  The method of getting a UCSB NetID depends on whether or not they are paid by UCSB.

  • Scholar Paid by UCSB: If the scholar is a new employee at UCSB, they will need to establish a UCSB Directory credential (a username known as an UCSB NetID and a temporary password known as a token). To acquire a token, they must be entered into the Payroll Personnel System (PPS) by their department payroll preparer. Once this has been done, allow one working day (for the scholar’s PPS data to sync up with the UCSB Directory); then the scholar should go to the Information Systems and Computing (IS&C) Help Desk counter located in SAASB 4101. They must take a photo ID with them; directory credentials cannot be released without it.  Additional information about the next steps in this process are available at UCSB Directory Credential.
  • Scholar Not Paid by UCSB: If the scholar is a non-PPS employee, the sponsoring UCSB department will need to apply for this service on the scholar’s behalf. Such services are extended as a professional courtesy.  The Office Manager can start the application process by sending an email to who will then reply with an application form that needs to be filled out. This application form is required and must be completed before any directory credential can be issued. The scholar and the Office Manager will be contacted once the Directory credentials are ready with further instructions.

Library Card

  • If the visiting international scholar is entered in the PPS system or has the without salary visiting researcher letter, they may be accorded faculty privileges with the Library. Otherwise, a visiting scholar can, like any member of the public, use the materials and facilities of the UCSB library within the library building itself including on-line databases. However, they cannot borrow materials without a card.
  • International scholars who do not otherwise qualify for a library card, can obtain a library card when they join the Friends of the Library as a Supporting Member. The cost is $50 per person for the year. There are some restrictions on the materials that can be checked out—such as a maximum of 10 items at a time. In addition, the Friends of the Library do not have access to on-line databases from off-campus computers (that is, computers that do not have a UCSB IP address.)

RecCen Pass

  • Visiting international scholars may join the RecCen as a community member or staff (if they qualify for a staff ID card). Memberships are available on either a quarterly or annual basis. The current community rates are $125 quarterly ($460 annual); the staff rates are $80 quarterly ($270 annual).
  • If the visiting international scholar qualifies as a without salary visiting researcher, they may be accorded faculty privileges with the RecCen.

Parking and Buses

  • A visitng international scholar who uses the MTD bus on a regular basis may want to investigate buying bus passes that are discounted.
  • If the visiting international scholar is entered in the PPS system or has the Without Salary Visiting Researcher letter, they may be accorded faculty privileges with UCSB’s Transportation Services.

Liability Coverage
In order to provide UCSB’s workman’s compensation coverage to the visiting international scholar, the host department will want to complete the Worker’s Volunteer Compensation Form available from Business Services. If the department has issued a Without Salary Visiting Researcher Letter, the letter alone will provide sufficient justification for Workers Compensation claims and the department does not to complete the Worker’s Volunteer Compensation Form.

UCSB Email Account
The host department determines its own policies as to whether they will assign a UCSB email address to a visiting international scholar.

Office Space
The host department should communicate with a visiting scholar whether or not the scholar will receive office space and as much information as possible about the space (location, whether it is shared space) and how to obtain a key.

Lab Space
The host department should communicate with a visiting scholar whether or not the scholar will receive lab space and any special circumstances/expectations with regard to the use of the lab space.

Accident/Medical Insurance Coverage

  • If the visiting international scholar comes to campus in the J visa category, they are required by law to have a certain minimum insurance coverage in order to maintain the J visa status. The scholar is responsible for purchasing an insurance policy that meets at least the minimum requirements. This insurance required for the J visa scholar is not the same as travel insurance.
  • Since most insurance policies will not cover pre-existing conditions for the first six months of coverage, visiting international scholars should be advised to bring any required medications with them from their home country.
  • If the visiting scholar or spouse is pregnant at the time they purchase insurance, they should be advised that the insurance will treat the pregnancy as a pre-exiting condition. Hence, the scholar will be responsible for the delivery costs if the child is born in the United States.

Physicians and Hospitals

  • Visiting international scholars who needs to see a physician in the Santa Barbara area may need help to find a physician. Their insurance plan may or may not list a preferred provider (or doctor) in the Santa Barbara area.
  • In an emergency, visiting scholars should go to the nearest emergency room. The host department may want to review emergency room information with their guests early in their stay.

Bank Account
Although many banks may request a social security number in order to set up a bank account, most banks will create an account for an international visitor who is on a non-immigrant visa such as the J-1 visa. In such cases, the international visitor will need to present their passport when they open an account. If the visitor subsequently obtains a social security number, they should inform the bank of their number.

Credit Card
Visiting international scholars should obtain a credit card before they leave their home country as it is often difficult for a visitor on a non-immigrant visa to obtain a credit card in the U.S. without a social security number. Sometimes the U.S. bank where a scholar opens an account will issue a credit card. However, not all banks follow this practice.

English Conversation Program
Visiting international scholars and/or their spouses are welcome to participate in the English Conversation Program (ECP) offered through the auspices of the Office of International Students and Scholars. The ECP offers a series of two hour classes Mondays through Fridays. They are informal classes taught by volunteers from the Santa Barbara community with the goal of providing international visitors and/or their spouses the opportunity to practice their conversational English skills, develop a network of friends and learn more about Santa Barbara. A nominal fee is charged to cover costs of refreshments for special events and parties.