What you should know before you leave home? Click on the following links to navigate quickly through this guide.
Passports, SEVIS and the SEVIS fee, the I-20, the F-1 Visa, Basic F-1 Regulations
International students must follow certain procedures to qualify for entry, and to maintain their legal status as students in the United States. The International Student Office serves as a liaison between the university, the U.S. Embassy/Consular offices and the US Department of Homeland Security to assist students in fulfilling these obligations. The Student & Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) is the federal database in which many actions taken by an F-1 student are recorded.
In this Pre-Arrival document and at your new student orientation, you will see and hear many references to SEVIS. The International Student Office will help you learn and understand the regulations that pertain to you.
Your first step: Paying the SEVIS Fee and Applying for a Visa
All applicants for F (student) visa must pay a $200 SEVIS fee and receive a receipt for same before applying for the F visa. Information on paying this fee is available at the link in the navigation column on the left of this page and will also be included in the packet shipped with your I-20. Click here is find the website for the US consulate or embassy nearest you. Apply for your visa at the nearest US embassy or consulate. Following is a discussion of the documents you should have or will acquire as you travel out of your country to the U.S. If you are a J visa holder, you are required to pay a $180 SEVIS fee and receive a receipt for the same before applying for the J visa.
Certificate of Eligibility - I-20 or DS-2019
Since you have been accepted to study at the University of Dallas, the International Office has entered your data into SEVIS to prepare the Certificate of Eligibility (I-20) Form to apply for an F visa or a DS-2019 to apply for a J visa. Present this form along with your SEVIS fee receipt and other documents related to your education, to the U.S. Embassy/Consulate to apply for a student visa. Generally, you should apply for the visa as soon as you receive the I-20 or DS-2019. You can apply up to 120 days before the start date of your program. Security clearances may extend the time required to get a visa. For specific instructions as to how to get an appointment, documents to bring, visa fees, etc go the the website of the consulate or embassy you will visit.
A passport is issued by your government to allow you to leave and return to your country. You must obtain a passport before you can apply for a visa. If possible, your passport should be valid for the duration of your educational program in the U.S. If it expires while you are in the U.S. you can renew it through your embassy or consulate. Please keep in mind that any time you leave the U.S. and plan to re-enter, your passport should be valid for a minimum of six months.
This is a permit placed in your passport by an official of another country that enables you to travel to that country. You must have an F-1 visa to come to the U.S. as a student. To apply for an F-1 visa present your I-20, your SEVIS fee receipt, your passport, evidence of financial support, and proof of your intent to return to your home country upon completion of your education in the U.S. and any other documents required by the visa office - shown on the consulate website.
The visa indicates the period during which you can enter the U.S. and how many entries you are allowed until the expiration date. The visa does not indicate how long you are permitted to stay in the U.S. Your length of stay is determined by the Immigration official who examines your documents at the Port of Entry to the United States. Students are admitted to the US for an indefinite period of stay denoted as D/S - Duration of Status.
Accompanying dependents (spouse/children) receive dependent I-20's with which they can apply for dependent visas - the F-2 visa. Dependent passports will be stamped in a similar manner showing F-2 status and D/S. The dependent I-20 is also returned.
Following arrival, you will be able to print from a CBP website an additional document known as the I-94, Admission/Departure Record, which will show the same details as the arrival stamp in the passport. Since you will need this additional document for various purposes during your stay in the U.S., you will need to print this as soon as it is available on the website.
Basic Immigration Regulations
If you cannot attend the University of Dallas by the date indicated on the I-20, you can request the Admissions Office and the International Student Office by email to defer your attendance to the next term subject to the policies of your program.
If you are going to be living on campus in a residence hall, make note of the earliest date that you can move in. If you are planning to arrive earlier than that date, you will need to have sufficient funds to pay for lodging and meals off campus before you can move into your residence hall.
If you are going to live off-campus, you should plan to bring approximately $2,500 in negotiable U.S. funds to cover your initial living expenses upon arrival - apartment deposit, 1st month's rent, kitchen and linen supplies, food. Please keep in mind that the amount of $2,500 is essentially for your first month's living expenses. It does not include your educational expenses, the cost of a car or most durable household items.
Some of the funds you should bring should be in cash (perhaps no more than $500) for immediate expenses, but the rest should be in the form of a cashier's check, traveler's checks, or a bank draft. You should also arrange to have access to funds to pay educational expenses - tuition, fees, books, computer, etc.
Credit history: In addition, a letter from your bank verifying a good credit history could aid you in renting an apartment or buying a car. It is also helpful to bring additional proof of financial support.
Emergency planning: International students should plan to keep an emergency balance totaling at least two months expenses on deposit in a local bank at all times.
If possible, you should obtain a major credit card (MasterCard, Visa, American Express, or Discover) BEFORE coming to the U.S. A credit card is frequently used as a means of identification when cashing a check, reserving hotel rooms, and is required when renting a car. PLEASE NOTE: It has become nearly impossible to get a major credit card in the U.S. if you do not have an established credit history accessible by your bank using a US Social Security Number and F-1 students can get a Social Security Card ONLY when they are fortunate enough to be offered employment. The only employment available to F-1 students during their first academic year is on-campus employment. Unfortunately, there are very limited job opportunities on the University of Dallas campus.
Click here for the university business office page on Student Account Services including details on how to pay your university charges in foreign currency.
Students will find it easy to open a checking account at one of the banks near the campus. Unfortunately, none of the banks or financial Institutions is within walking distance of the campus; therefore you should plan an extra day to make arrangements to open an account. See later section for specific banks and locations.
If you are going to be living in a residence hall on campus, most of your day-to-day needs will be met - food service, laundry facilities, entertainment, etc and therefore you may not find it necessary to have a personal automobile. However, you may need to purchase some initial items - linens, toiletries, etc. The International Office offers transportation at the beginning of each term as requested by new students for a shopping trip, typically to the Wal-Mart Super Center where most of your initial needs can be met.
However, if you are going to live off-campus, your needs will be quite different. Initially it may seem to you that everyone at the University has a car and that everyone needs one. While it is possible to live off-campus and attend the University of Dallas without owning a car (at Tower Village, specifically), you may find that the limited public transportation* in this area limits your housing options. Owning your own car increases your housing options and other opportunities.
*The Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) Orange line provides light rail service to Irving giving access to Dallas to the east, locations in Irving to the west and access to DFW International Airport.. The elevated rail line and UD station are located at the far side of the intersection of Hwy 114 and Tom Braniff Drive and are accessible by a short walk.
The estimate of living expenses on the Confirmation of Financial Resources does not include expenses for a car. If you are considering the purchase of a used car, you will need to arrange for an additional $3000 - $6000 for the purchase price and insurance (not to mention gas and maintenance). In addition, Texas state law mandates that anyone who drives a car must carry liability insurance. Additional information on auto purchasing, license and insurance requirements, campus parking regulations, etc will be provided during orientation.
Clothing and Climate Information: The University of Dallas is in a moderate climate zone. Average temperatures are 46°F (8°C) in January and 95°F (35°C) in July. However, winter temperatures can fall below 20°F (-7°C) and summer temperatures can rise above 100°F (38°C).
Light weight cotton clothing is more comfortable in the summer. Winter requires warm clothing and an overcoat for cold weather. It even occasionally snows in Dallas.
Students usually wear casual clothing. Trousers/slacks, blue jeans, shorts, shirts, sweaters, and light weight jackets are popular for both men and women. Inexpensive clothing can be found relatively easy in the United States. Blue jeans or trousers cost between $20 and $55 for men and are somewhat higher in cost for women. Shoes cost from $20 up. Both men and women will find a business suit essential for formal classroom and business presentations. Traditional attire is appropriate for many social occasions.
Generally, it is better to bring clothes that are easy to care for, such as "wash and wear" items. Coin-operated washing and drying facilities are located in most off-campus apartment complexes and at nearby commercially owned Laundromats. Dry cleaning is readily available but is a much more expensive cleaning process.
Other Belongings and Supplies: International students at the University of Dallas say it is important to bring items which are representative of their culture. Traditional clothing, musical instruments, handicrafts and photographs are valuable in representing your country to others. They advise against bringing things like books and school supplies because those items can be easily purchased in the United States.
You might also bring recipes for your favorite foods. If you do not have any cooking skills, you should ask someone at home to show you how to cook some of your favorite dishes. Occasionally, students will cook for friends, so be prepared with spices and recipes of familiar dishes from home. There are many ethnic grocery stores in which you can find traditional ingredients.
The electrical current used for small appliances in the United States is 110-115 volts and 60 cycles. Electrical frequency can affect electric clocks, audio equipment and some other electronic gear. You should check your electrical equipment for compatibility with 60-cycle current before you bring it to the USA. It may be more convenient and even more economical to buy small electrical items in the United States. Appliances brought from outside the U.S. may require adapters and/or converters.
Items to bring with you:
Cosmetics, shaving and hygienic items (for initial use)
Prescription drugs with appropriate documentation
Decorative items of sentimental value (including family photographs)
Musical instruments you play
Personal athletic equipment like tennis racket, soccer (US term) shoes
Typical Items that can be purchased after you arrive:
Alarm clock; Study light
Coffee pot, small kitchen appliances, dishes, etc.
Linens - Bedding and towels; Hair dryer and curling iron
Laundry and housekeeping supplies
Clothes iron; hangers
General school supplies; Computer
Stereo, TV; Books for general reading
For some of these initial purchases, the International Office offers transportation as requested by new students at the beginning of each term for a shopping trip, typically to the Wal-Mart Super Center where most of your initial needs can be met. See flyer enclosed in your I-20 packet for details.
Baggage Limitations: Check with your travel agent or the airline that issued your ticket for details on how many bags you can check in and how many you are allowed to carry on the plane with you. There are strict weight limitations on some international flights. If you decide to bring more than the allowed rate, you have three options:
• Paying the airline overweight charges
• Shipping by air or surface
• Mailing your baggage with the airline for additional costs
Shipping of Items: Shipping is expensive. Airfreight arrives from most parts of the world in 2 to 3 weeks, and surface shipping takes from 2 to 4 months. Parcels that are shipped can be cleared through customs at the Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Customs officials suggest that you should bring two sets of keys if you ship belongings in a suitcase or trunk. You may not legally bring any plants or specified foods into the United States. In many cases, it is illegal to bring most fresh food items into the country. These food items will be confiscated, and you will be charged a fine as penalty for the offense. You should avoid packing with materials that are considered agricultural (such as straw).
It is less expensive and more convenient to mail personal belongings valued at less than $250. If you are shipping items c/o (in care of) the International Office, please notify the office in advance and state the size, quantity and approximate arrival date of the shipment. The International Office does not actually have a storage facility so only small packages can be accepted. Packages should be sent to:
c/o International Student Office
University of Dallas
1845 E. Northgate Drive
Irving, Texas 75062-4736
Before you depart from your home country, you should take care of the following:
US Federal law requires that all people in the US be covered on a health insurance plan to help cover any medical expenses incurred in the US. To help you understand how health insurance works in the US, watch this video.
If you are not able to fly directly into Dallas, plan at least 2 - 3 hours between connecting flights in order to clear Immigration and Customs inspection at your first US Port of Entry.
Documents you should carry on your person:
Passport with F-1 visa
Your I-20 (this may have been placed in a sealed envelope at the consulate or embassy when you got your visa) If you are a Canadian citizen and do not have a visa stamp, you must have your SEVIS fee receipt with your I-20
Evidence of financial resources
Some document, form or other paper with important names and contact information - phone #, email and university address - Marilyn White, Rakia Johnson
When your flight arrives in the United States, you must clear Customs and Immigration at the port of entry. Plan at least 2 hours, or possibly 3 hours, if you have a connecting flight to Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport. Occasionally, the customs and immigration officers may seem not to be polite; they are required by law to use caution with matters relating to travelers. Even if the process seems long and exhausting, it is important to remain friendly, polite, patient and completely honest. You should have the following documents ready for inspection:
• Your passport
• Your I-20
• Any documents or letters relating to financial support, scholarships, prescription medications, etc. presented to the immigration officials. (You may want to have extra copies in case the officials need to keep the copy you present.)
Keep these documents in a safe place and bring them to orientation at the university. If there is any question about your documents, you might be referred to secondary inspection. Don't be overly concerned. Referral to secondary inspection is completely routine to keep the inspection process moving.
At the customs clearance point, you will be asked to declare the amount of money and the value of your items that you are bringing into the country. You will receive a declaration form before the airplane lands. You may be required to pay taxes on money exceeding $10,000 or on goods valued in excess of $250. It is most important to be truthful concerning customs regulations. Certain items are prohibited or restricted. Information listing restricted items is available from the U.S. Embassy or Consulate.
Students bringing prescription medication into the U.S. should bring a letter from their physician (in English) stating what the medications is, what medical condition it is for, and the quantity in their possession. Be aware that some medication used in other countries are considered illegal in the U.S and are not permitted and may be confiscated.
When you leave the immigration inspection area, you should have in your possession:
• Your passport
• Your I-20
• Any documents or letters relating to financial support, scholarships, prescription medications, etc. presented to the immigration officials. (You may want to have extra copies in case the officials need to keep the copy you present.)
From Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport (DFW)
The Dallas/Fort Worth International Airport is about 10 miles from the University of Dallas campus. Arriving at an unfamiliar airport or city can be very confusing. If you would like someone to meet you, the International Student Office will try to arrange for a current student from your part of the world to meet you at the airport. Please notify us at least 2 weeks in advance of your travel date and provide the name of the airline, date and time of arrival, and flight number. Also please advise if you have a direct flight from overseas to Dallas or if you have a connecting flight from another US city as this will significantly affect the time it will take for you to get your luggage and be ready to leave.
If you prefer to arrange your own transportation, the following services are available:
Whether you use the shared ride or taxi service, have the address where you want to go and maybe even print a map from Google or Yahoo to show the driver.
From Other Ports of Entry
If your travel plans require you to have a layover at a port of entry city such as New York City, Los Angeles or Miami, please be careful. While most Americans are helpful and honest, there is the possibility of a dishonest person trying to take advantage of your being a stranger in their city. One source of assistance with travel procedures, information, and directions is the Travelers' Aid Society whose offices are located in airports, train stations, bus depots and other places in most large cities in the United States. Other sources of assistance are airline ticketing representatives and ground transportation personnel.
If you plan to stay overnight, ask about the availability of van, bus, or limousine service from the airport to the hotel when you make your reservation. Free transportation is sometimes provided by hotels. If you need to use a taxicab, use only those clearly marked as a taxi with a properly identified driver (picture identification is usually posted inside the taxi close to the driver). Be sure you know the cost of the ride before you get into the taxi. However, taxicabs in New York will sometimes refuse to drive short distances if they know before you get in the car that it is not a long trip. It is easier to get a taxi if you stop them, get in the taxi, and then tell your destination.
Hotel/Motel Accommodations: If you need a temporary place to stay, the university has made arrangements for special discounts at area hotels that are relatively close to the university. Click here for area hotels with UD rates.
It is best to make arrangements prior to your arrival to guarantee that you have reserved accommodations when you arrive. If you expect to arrive after 6:00 p.m., the hotel may require a credit card number or advance payment in order to guarantee your reservation.
On-Campus Housing: Undergraduate students under 21 years old are required to live on-campus (unless married or living with parents). They are assigned on-campus housing first. There is no married housing or family housing on campus. On-campus housing follows the undergraduate academic calendar. Therefore halls are closed for 4 days during Thanksgiving in November, about 4 weeks from mid-December to mid-January (the Christmas break) and for 1 week during spring break in March. While the Housing office will try to accommodate those who must remain on campus during Thanksgiving and Spring break, affected students may be asked to move to a different hall during those times. No one is permitted to stay during the Christmas break. The cafeteria is generally closed during these holidays.
If you would like to check current availability of housing on campus, contact: Housing Office, University of Dallas, phone: (972) 721-5323; fax: (972) 721-5291; email: firstname.lastname@example.org. The university is unable to offer on campus housing for graduate business students. If you are pursuing your MBA or MS degree you must live off-campus.
Off-Campus Housing: If not required to live on campus, you can make your own housing arrangements at Tower Village or any other apartment complex by completing the regular leasing application. (Tower Village Apartments is the only apartment complex within walking distance of campus - located just across the street from the main campus). To make your own arrangements, contact Tower Village direct at 972-438-2515 or email email@example.com.
There are many apartment complexes within 5 miles of the campus. In your I-20 packet, you will be provided a list of apartment complexes that current students have recommended. However, since there is limited public transportation in Irving at the present time, those who live farther from campus usually find it necessary to purchase a car. If you do not plan to purchase a car, or at least not right away, Tower Village is your best option.
If you wish help finding an apartment, we recommend two free apartment locating services.
J.Ellis Apartment Locators in Irving has been very helpful to students. Also Big D Apartment Locators works with many University of Dallas students, as well as hundreds of others every month who are moving to the Irving area.
Students can generally lease an apartment quite quickly by verifying finances and status using bank statements from home, passports and I-20's. Most complexes can provide you a rental application for non-U.S. citizens that will not require you to have a Social Security Number (SSN). If you are asked for your SSN, explain that you are not able to get one yet and ask if they have another process by which you can rent. The International Office is happy to assist by providing copies of documents or certifications of enrollment. Be sure to ask about student discounts. Apartments generally require a 6-month or 1-year lease. Read your lease carefully before signing.
Most apartments are unfurnished except for stove and refrigerator. The leasing office can give you information on renting furniture. Used furniture can be purchased from departing students, local residents, etc.
If you wish to find a roommate, contact the International Office, Beatriz Zuluaga (firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com to get your name and contact information on our roommate list or you can post a message on Facebook http://www.facebook.com/groups/66309150199
Cellular telephones and handheld devices are the best communication medium for most students. Many wireless networks in the US, are now equipped with GSM technology allowing international travelers with compatible devices to communicate with US networks. GSM telephones are classified as dual-band, tri-band, and quad-band. Tri- and quad-band are recommended to provide the best service in the USA.
Before traveling to the USA, check with your service provider about coverage. It may be that the "smart card" (also known as a SIM card) in your existing cellular telephone simply needs to be replaced with one that is compatible. Purchase your SIM card before you depart from your home country. You might, also ask about USA roaming rates as the charges could be very high!
Prepaid cellular phones are another very convenient way for foreign visitors to stay connected. These "pay-as-you-go" telephones are now available at many phone stores, drug stores, department stores, and shopping-mall kiosks. The prices of the phones are as low as $29.99, but you must prepay the per-minute calling charges. You can easily purchase additional minutes by using your bank credit card at any later time. If you shop around, you can find some of these phones with very competitive international calling rates.
Telephone calling cards can be used for long-distance or international calls from any telephone. They typically require you to call a toll-free number (800 or 888) to access the provider's network. You can purchase calling cards on the Internet or from many retailers throughout the USA including most department stores, gas stations, pharmacies, supermarkets, discount stores and shopping-mall kiosks. Rates can vary from 5 cents a minute to 35 cents a minute for domestic calls. International rates can be as low as 20 cents, but can also be as high as $8 per minute. It pays to shop around for the best rates.
One of the first things you will want to do when you arrive is open a bank account to safeguard your money and free you from carrying a lot of cash. U.S. banks are completely safe and your money is insured. The banks in Irving closest to the university are:
Chase Bank - 1307 West Airport Frwy, Irving, TX 75062 near the intersection of Hwy 183 and MacArthur Boulevard
Bank of America - 110 Hwy 114, Irving, TX 75062 at the intersection of Highway 114 and O'Connor Road
Wells Fargo Bank - Two locations, one at 900 West Airport Freeway and a second at 3535 North Beltline Road
When opening a bank account, you may be asked if you have a Social Security Number. While you may eventually get an SSN, explain to the bank officer that you are an F-1 student from outside the U.S. and that you are not eligible to get an SSN yet. The bank officer will then provide you the appropriate documents to open an account as a foreign national.
If you have F-1 status, you are eligible to work on campus and eventually off campus. When employed you are required to have a Social Security Number. However, under current regulations, you must actually have a job offer in order to apply for a Social Security Number. Since you will not initially have a job offer, you will not be able to get a Social Security number immediately.
You do not need a Social Security Number to open a bank account or rent an apartment. However, the lack of an SSN may cause other problems as you arrange for services. Explain to any company asking for a SSN that you are not permitted to get one and inquire if they have an alternative method to provide you the service you want.
If you get a job offer (initially you are eligible only for on-campus jobs), you will need a letter verifying your job offer and a letter from the International Office verifying your F-1 status. With these letters, your I-20 and passport verifying your F-1 status, you'll be able to apply for a Social Security Card. For more details click on the link "Can I Get a Social Security Card" in the left hand navigation bar.
Many international students mistakenly assume that once they arrive in the United States they will be able to "work their way through school." This is not possible. Under no circumstances are F-1 students allowed to work off campus during their first academic year in the United States, and only under specific circumstances are they allowed to work off campus after one year.
F-1 students are permitted to work on campus without getting specific permission. Campus employers are the university itself, the bookstore, and the cafeteria.
The International Student Advisor is authorized to grant permission for off-campus employment for F-1 students only in the case of Curricular Practical Training (CPT); the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS)is the only authority who can grant off-campus employment for economic hardship or Optional Practical Training (OPT). Unauthorized employment is grounds for immediate deportation from the United States.
All F-1 students who are new to the University of Dallas are required to attend a scheduled International Office Orientation covering the legal aspects of their status in the United States. Even if you have already attended another university in the U.S., you are required to attend this orientation. Details on the time and place of your orientation are included in the letter from the international office or the acceptance letter from your program which accompanies the I-20. See the Orientation Schedule on this site for specific details for the next academic term.
In addition to dealing with legal matters, additional orientation topics may include cultural adjustments, transportation issues, housing information, information on purchasing and driving a car in Texas, personal safety, the university health insurance policy for International students, having fun in the Metroplex, etc. Additional orientation events may be offered by the particular program you are attending. Look for invitations in your packets, on bulletin boards, on your emails, etc. Take advantage of all the opportunities presented to you to learn about living in the USA.
Each program at the university has its own unique procedures for registering for classes. For new students coming to the university for the first time, the list below should give you are idea where to start:
Constantin College - If registering for the fall term, registration is during New
Student Orientation in the fall.
If you are first enrolling in January, go to the registrar's office in the Braniff Building.
Braniff Graduate School - See the Graduate Coordinator in the graduate school office in Carpenter Hall.
School of Ministry - Visit the SOM offices in Catherine Hall.
Graduate Business Students - Registration instructions are provided with your acceptance letter. Consult with your academic adviser by email or in person when you arrive. Actual registration is accomplished online.
If you are coming to the US for the first time, you may have expectations based on what you have read or seen in films, or heard from others. Many things will be different from what you expect. One person's experiences and perceptions in a country can vary considerably from another's experiences in the same country.
You may find that Americans are poorly informed about your country which may cause them to ask silly questions. However, Americans tend to be very outgoing, generally curious about your home country and easily strike up conversations with strangers. In order to develop contacts with Americans you will probably find that an attitude of self confidence, an outgoing manner and a good sense of humor will be helpful.
Americans have a very direct communication style. Honesty and frankness are more important to Americans than not hurting another's feelings or "saving face." One aspect of this direct communication style is the practice of looking directly at someone when conversing. It is considered a sign of interest and respect. Looking down or a your hands can be interpreted as a lack of respect or as disinterest.
Americans strive to live up to the statement that "all men are created equal." This ideal results in an expectation of equal treatment. In the U.S. it is extremely important to treat everyone you meet with courtesy and respect regardless of their job or apparent social standing. In like manner you can expect to be treated with courtesy and respect also. In addition, American culture is a highly individualistic culture that values what people "do" over family origins or inherited social class.
Except when involved in formal business environments, most Americans act and dress very informally. Casual, comfortable clothing and an informal manner is the norm. The immediate use of first names when first meeting people is nearly universal. Even at school you will find that students and professors interact with each other on a very casual though not disrespectful manner.
Americans are time-conscious and value punctuality. Time is seen as tangible, manageable and in short supply. Because time is seen to be scarce, many Americans try to arrange their activities to minimize wasted time. Many Americans keep appointment calendars and seem to live according to schedules. When you plan to meet someone or set up an appointment, it is very important to arrive at the scheduled time. Most Americans consider that arriving late for appointments indicates a lack of respect.
To International students, American students seem to always be in a hurry. This often makes them appear rude. However, Americans like to think they are generally efficient and that they get many things done by being in a hurry.
Finally, the United States is a highly active society, full of movement and change. It will probably be very different from what you are accustomed to and even to what you expect. We hope you will enjoy the process of learning about and getting to know Americans.