International Students & Scholars

International Students & Scholars

For chinese 中文 translation of this page, click here.

Welcome to San Francisco, California, USA!

We hope to provide some guidance on issues such as how to obtain housing, how to arrange for telephone service, gas and electricity, and where to shop for furniture, groceries, and other essential items. Some people visit San Francisco ahead of time to search for housing, sometimes several months in advance. We realize that this may be difficult for most of you, so we are providing you with information to ease your transition.

Our Communities

UCSF Housing offers a variety of living spaces at or near our Parnassus and Mission Bay campuses for Students, Postdocs, Residents, Clinical Fellows, and Faculty.  We have options for singles, couples or families with children.  This is a good choice only if you are staying in San Francisco for one year or more.  Housing on the UCSF campus is usually cheaper but very limited in availability, so you should also try to find off-campus housing.

Off Campus Housing

Avoid Rental Scams

The internet is full of scams for housing.  Here are some tips to help avoid some of those scams.

How to Detect a Rental Scam
•Rental amount is unusually low in comparison to the average rates for the area
•Landlord is unable to show you the rental
•Landlord claims to be out of town, state, or country
•There is a sense of urgency
•There are requests made of advanced payments through wiring, cashier’s check, money order, escrow service, Western Union, or MoneyGram
•Landlord does not ask for rental application or reference check
•A third party is involved
•Ad and/or correspondence has misspellings
•Excessive use of capitalization
How to Avoid a Rental Scam
•Never wire money, nor pay money in advance of seeing the rental
•Always meet the landlord or property manager in person before signing rental documents or sending money
•Never give out bank account information
•Contact the county assessor’s office to look up property ownership:
•Do a web search of the landlord’s name

How to Report a Rental Scam
•Call the Federal Trade Commission Consumer Response Center toll- free hotline: 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357)
•FTC online complaint form:
•Internet Crime Complaint Center:

Support from the UCSF International Students & Scholars Office

UCSF Housing Services works closely with UCSF International Students & Scholars Office (ISSO) to provide you with maximum support for an easy move to the United States.  ISSO has several helpful web pages to assist you. 

A Letter of Reference from Your UCSF Department

When looking for an off-campus rental property, you will increase your chances of securing housing if you have a strong reference.  Your department or supervisor can provide this reference letter for you.  You may download a Sample Letter here and give it to your department or supervisor to use as a guide for their letter.

Utilities, Furniture and Moving

Once you have found an apartment, you will need to set up utilities like electric, gas, water, garbage, recycling, internet, and phones.  You may also need to rent or buy furniture, then get help with your move.

Tips to Assist with Setting up Utilities and Cable without a Social Security Card/Number

Some tenants have obtained services by going to the cable office in person and presenting the Housing Agreement (lease) and passports.  This may also require a security deposit to be held in the event a customer gets behind on payment.

If you have permission to work in the USA, you can apply for a social security number (SSN). This link has information for SSN for noncitizens. Visit SSN Website.

If you do not have a work permit, you may use the TIN that the UCSF Registrar has for you in their records. This is the number that you may have used on your financial aid application.

If neither of these work, we recommend that you contact the International Students office for guidance. Visit ISSO Page.


  • Pacific Gas & Electric (PG&E). 1-800-743-5000 or online at PG&E.
  • Water & Sewage is usually paid for by the landlord, but if not, contact Water & Wastewater Resources at (415) 351-3399 or online here.
  • Trash, Recycling and Compost services are provided by Recology. Call (415) 330-1300 or contact Recology online here.


Most people now use mobile phones instead of home phones.  Choosing a provider in San Francisco can be difficult because the cell phone signal will vary greatly among providers depending on your location in the city.

Renters Insurance

Protect yourself and your personal property with insurance for UCSF affiliates. Click here to view rental insurance information.

Ask Us Questions in Your Language
Many of our Housing Staff are fluent in other languages besides English.  Please contact the following if you need assistance:

Français – .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Tagalog - .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)
Arabic - .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)

For other language assistance, please contact UCSF International Students & Scholars Office.