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.
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.
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.
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)
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 powertochoose.org.