New Scholar Information

Welcome to Southern Methodist University!


The International Student & Scholar Services team is excited to welcome you to SMU, Dallas and the United States. As you prepare to come to SMU, we hope that the following information will help you ease your transition to SMU and the Dallas/Forth Worth area. Please read this page carefully, as this page will contain information on what you need to do before you arrive to campus and during your first week at SMU.

There are many non-immigrant visa classifications.The only two categories under which an international scholar may be appointed to SMU are the J-1 Exchange Visitor and H-1B Temporary Worker visas.The ISSS Responsible Officer will make recommendations on the appropriate visa to use for each individual exchange visitor. The type of visa chosen depends on many factors: the source and amount of the exchange visitor's salary or funding, the nature and duration of the appointment, how soon the appointment will begin, whether the individual is currently in the U.S. or has recently been in the U.S., and if they are subject to certain restrictions. Exchange Visitors must not plan to enter the U.S. without the appropriate visa documents processed by SMU, the Department of Homeland Security or The Department of State. 

Please complete the Visa Determination Questionnaire. The ISSS Responsible Officer will review the answers provided in the questionnaire and make recommendations on the type of visa you should apply for. 

Visa Determination Questionnaire

Upon submission of the Visa Determination Questionnaire, the ISSS office will provide a recommendation on the most appropriate visa type.

1. If the ISSS office has determined that the H1-B visa is appropriate for the foreign national, the hosting department will receive an email with the contact information of their liaison at Human Resources.

2. If the ISSS office has determined that the Exchange Visitor should come to SMU as a J-1 Exchange Visitor, the hosting department will initiate the DS-2019 request process. The request will be submitted through DocuSign. 

  • DS-2019 Request (hosting department)
  • Proof of appointment or invitation clearly stating program objectives (hosting department)
  • Copy of Passport (Identity page w/ date of expiration) (Exchange Visitor)
  • Financial Evidence (51 % must be non personal funds): please note
  •  If funds are from SMU, include appointment letter.
  •   If funds are from other sources, the Exchange Visitor will attach proof of funding.
  • Transfer IN form (Exchange Visitor should get this form signed by current Alternate Responsible Officer)
  •  Proof of SEVIS maintenance fee payment (Exchange Visitor)
  • Other (dependent information if applicable) (Exchange Visitor) 

Once all required documentation has been submitted, the ISSS office will begin processing the request, which may take up to 7 business days. Once DS-2019 Form has been issued, the Hosting Department and Exchange Visitor will receive a notification through DocuSign, that the request has been approved. 


  1. DS-2019 Request  (Process will begin with Hosting Department) 
  2. Transfer TO SMU Scholar/Professor
  3. SEVIS fee maintenance fee payment: Prospective exchange visitors must pay a $200.00 SEVIS maintenance fee to the ISSS Office. 

After receiving the SMU DS-2019, scholars are required to pay a $220 USD I-901 fee associated with the SEVIS ID number on the DS-2019. Please visit to pay for the I-901 fee and print a copy of the SEVIS fee payment receipt, as you will need it in order to apply for a J-1 Visa a U.S. Embassy or Consulate and when entering the U.S.

It is preferable to apply for a J-1 visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country. However, you may be able to apply at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate outside of your home country, but the acquiring of visa might be more difficult if you are not a citizen of that country and could take longer for processing.

How to Apply

There are several steps to apply for a visa. The order of these steps and how you complete them may vary at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where you apply. Please consult the instructions available on the embassy or consulate website where you will apply.

Complete the Online Visa Application

  • Online Non-immigrant Visa Application, Form DS-160Learn more about completing the DS-160. You must: 1) complete the online visa application and 2) print the application form confirmation page to bring to your interview.
  • Photo – You will upload your photo while completing the online Form DS-160. Your photo must be in the format explained in the Photograph Requirements.

Schedule an Interview

While interviews are generally not required for applicants of certain ages outlined above, consular officers have the discretion to require an interview of any applicant, regardless of age.

If you are age:

Then an interview is:

13 and younger

Generally not required


Required (some exceptions for renewals)

80 and older

Generally not required

You must schedule an appointment for your visa interview, generally, at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in the country where you live. You may schedule your interview at any U.S. Embassy or Consulate, but be aware that it may be difficult to qualify for a visa outside of your place of permanent residence. 

Wait times for interview appointments vary by location, season, and visa category, so you should apply for your visa early.


Pay the non-refundable visa application fee of $160 USD, if you are required to pay it before your interview. When your visa is approved, you may also pay a visa issuance fee, if applicable to your nationality.

*This information has been provided by the U.S. Department of State. Please visit for more details on the visa process.

Exchange Visitors will also pay a $200.00 SEVIS maintenance fee to the SMU International Student/Scholar Services Office through TouchNet. 

Note: Citizens of Canada and Burmuda are exempt from getting a J-1/J-2 Visa, but must present a valid passport, SMU I-20, and proof of the I-901 fee payment at the port of entry to the U.S.

Once a scholar has a J-1 Visa, they can enter the U.S. with their visa and DS-2019 no earlier than 30 days prior to the program start date on the DS-2019.

U.S. Immigration Inspection

It is important that you have the proper documents to present to immigration officials at the U.S. port of entry. Be sure to carry your DS-2019, visa, passport, and financial documentation with you because you will need to show them to immigration officials when you enter the United States. Please do not enter the United States in tourist visa status unless you are coming to the United States for tourism only.

Initial Expenses

You should plan to arrive with enough money to meet the initial expenses of your first weeks in the United States. Until you are living in an apartment/house, you should expect to spend from $20-$40 per day for meals at moderately priced restaurants and from $100-$400 per night for off-campus accommodations. You may use an automatic teller machine (ATM) to get U.S. dollars at a U.S. airport using your existing bank card from home.

To avoid delays and cash-flow problems, you may want to open an account in a U.S. bank in your home country or in a non-U.S. bank (also in your home country) that has a branch in the United States. You would then be able to transfer funds from the bank in your country to a bank in the United States. It is very important for you to be familiar with your government's regulations for transferring funds to the United States. You should also check with your bank in your country regarding fees charged for transferring funds to the United States.


You should try to bring your belongings with you because the University cannot store baggage sent ahead. You may ask your department or school if someone is able to accept your baggage, but it is usually not possible to do so. Please do not send packages or baggage to the ISSS office since we do not have storage space. Once you have a U.S. residential address, personal effects and packages under a certain weight may be mailed to you by international parcel post. Consult your local post office for details.

Medical Records

If you are bringing children J-2 dependents, records of your children's immunizations are required before they may enroll in public schools in the United States. Please review the current immunization requirements. Be sure to bring copies of your medical records translated into English and those of any accompanying family members with you to the United States.

Health Insurance

J-1 Exchange Visitors and their J-2 dependents are required to have medical insurance coverage with the following minimum benefits [22 CFR 62.14].

  • Medical benefits of at least $100,000 per accident or illness
  • Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000
  • Expenses associated with the medical evacuation of the exchange visitor to his or her home country in the amount of $50,000
  • A deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.

Scholars and their dependents typically purchase health insurance while in their home country because they are required to have valid health insurance from the start and end date of their program with the university. For a list of U.S. health insurance providers that have plans that meet the minimum requirements, please see the Health Insurance Providers form.

If you will not be using a U.S. health insurance provider, please ensure that your health insurance plan meets the minimum requirements and that proof of health insurance clearly demonstrates that you are enrolled in a plan the has the requirements stated above. Proof of insurance that meets the Department of State requirements must be provided by the international scholar upon arrival to the U.S. to ensure compliance with Federal Regulations governing the J-1 Exchange Visitor program, along with the Health Insurance Compliance form.

Exchange Visitor Health Insurance Policy and Company Information
Exchange Visitor Health Insurance Verification Form (exchange visitors not receiving compensation from SMU) 
Exchange Visitor Health Insurance Verification Form (exchange visitors receiving benefits or SMU exchange students)

Temporary Housing

Please see our list of temporary housing accommodations near SMU. For more long-term housing we recommend you use an apartment finder. Typically students seek housing accommodations near SMU for convenient access to campus. However, housing near SMU is typically more expensive.

Things to keep in mind while looking for an apartment:

  • Initial deposit is required-amounts vary, but first month’s rent is standard.
  • Rent range could be anywhere from $800-$1200 USD, depending on area and size.
  • Utility charges are additional (i.e. gas, water, electricity)-amounts vary, but could range anywhere from $60-$200 USD.

To compare electric plans, we recommend you look at

Present the following documents to the inspections officer at the U.S. port of entry (do not pack these items in your checked luggage):

  • Valid Passport with J-1 Visa (unless you are exempt from the visa requirement)
  • Form DS-2019 issued by SMU
  • Appointment Letter
  • Evidence of Financial Resources
  • If you have a dependent, he or she will need to present a passport, Form DS-2019 and J-2 visa.

The officer should stamp your passport and mark it "J-1" and "D/S." "D/S" means that you can remain in the United States as long as you remain in valid immigration status. Before you leave the airport, you should download your I94 arrival document and check that you have been given admissions under Duration of Status: D/S. Go to i94.cbp.dhs.go/I94/#/home

Arriving in Dallas/Fort Worth (DFW)

You may take a taxi/uber/Lyft from DFW International Airport to Dallas. The cost to SMU is approximately $30-40. You can also take a shuttle bus to your destination. See below for a list of some shuttle bus companies and pricing:

  1. City Shuttle: $21.00 per passenger from DFW International Airport to SMU Campus or $17.00 per passenger to the Hotel Lumen (across SMU).
  2. Go Yellow Checker Shuttle: $25.00 per one passenger from DFW to Southern Methodist University. SMU Students get a discount: Click here for your discount
  3. Super Shuttle: $26.00 per one passenger from DFW to Southern Methodist University for SMU students. Please use code VJJZ7 when making reservation.

Public transportation is also an option. Although, public transportation may be less expensive, it may take a lot longer for you to make it to Dallas. For more information on the local train system, please visit 

Exchange Visitors MUST check-in with the International Student and Scholar Services office upon arrival and BEFORE beginning activities at SMU. Please be sure to have the following documents: 

  1. Original DS-2019
  2. Original Passport & Visa (if applicable)
  3. I-94 Arrival Record (can be printed after arrival to the U.S. at
  4. Proof of Health Insurance (Exchange Visitor Health Insurance Verification form)
  5. Must have U.S. Residential Address & U.S. Phone Number
  6. Immigration Documents of J-2 Dependents, if applicable

To register for your government check-in appointment, click here

If you are receiving university benefits, you must also schedule an orientation with Human Resources.

Tips to Locate and Print Electronic Form I-94

The ISSS office hosts various events year-round to help exchange visitors acclimate to U.S. Living. Please visit our Events Calendar page for a list of events happening at SMU.

In addition to attending our events, we recommend that you review the Post-Arrival Handbook for an extensive list of resources on and around campus.