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Exchange Visitors

Exchange Visitors (EVs) are commonly referred to on the Rensselaer campus as 'scholars'. Exchange Visitors come to Rensselaer with a J-1 visa. EVs are approved to participate in Exchange Visitor programs in the U.S. by the Department of State (DOS).

This page was last updated on: November 3, 2022.

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New Exchange Visitors

Welcome! We are here to help your arrival to the United States and to Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute.

At Rensselaer, we have several types of Exchange Visitors: short-term scholars, research scholars, intern and exchange students. Exchange students are managed by the Office of International Programs.

The most common type of EV at Rensselaer is short-term scholar or research scholar. There are also scholars on other visa types, such as B-1/B-2 and VWP. 

Before You Arrive

Welcome Guide

View our Welcome Guide for information you need to know!

Checklist: Get Ready to Come to Rensselaer!

  • Pay SEVIS Fee
  • Get your visa - see section in the Arrival Guide on 'Applying for your visa'
  • Choose health insurance [see Health & Wellness section]
  • Book your tickets
  • What to carry when entering the U.S. [at the Port of Entry]

Applying for your visa

Here is a list of the required documentation to apply for your J-1 visa from the Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs (ECA). ECA is a part of the Department of State, and they have a website with information for Exchange Visitors which holds useful information: https://j1visa.state.gov/.

SEVIS Fee

  • All international students in initial J-1 status are required to pay a $220 SEVIS I-901 fee before applying for their J-1 visa. Students should pay the fee at least 3 business days prior to the visa appointment and bring the receipt of payment to the visa interview. Students should keep this receipt of payment for their records and have it on-hand when initially entering the United States.
  • For more information on the J-1 SEVIS fee, go to: https://www.ice.gov/sevis/i901/faq
  • To pay the J-1 SEVIS fee online, go to: www.fmjfee.com

Visa denials

  • The U.S. Department of State (DOS) maintains an area of their website dedicated to visa denials, Go here for more information: http://bit.ly/DOS-visadenial
  • If you are denied during your visa application, please keep the paper they provide you with the reason for your denial and contact ISSS via email so we can try and provide additional guidance.

Administrative processing

After You Arrive

Scholar Orientation

ISSS holds a scholar orientation session that is required for all new scholars.

After your arrival, contact ISSS to schedule your scholar orientation session at ISSSoffice@rpi.edu.

Check-In Process

Immigration regulations require you to check-in with your Responsible or Alternate Responsible Official (RO/ARO) to maintain your immigration status.  All new international students and scholars are required to complete an in-person check-in with ISSS after arrival to the U.S.

Within one week of arrival to U.S., you must email ISSS at ISSSoffice@rpi.edu with your:

  • DS-2019
  • Passport
  • J-1 visa
  • Proof of insurance coverage [in English]
  • Most Recent I-94 Record [found online here: http://bit.ly/formI94]

RIN: Rensselaer Identification Number

Every student, faculty and staff member is issued a RIN that serves as their unique identifier on the RPI campus.

The process of issuing a RIN takes approximately 1-2 weeks after you have completed the required Check-In with ISSS, so please make sure to check in promptly upon your arrival to the U.S..

RCS Account

You will be able to set up your RPI email account after you have completed your Check-In with ISSS and we issue a RIN for you.

The Division of the Chief Information Officer (DotCIO) supports the RCS accounts: " Your RCS account allows you access to the campus network (including printers), the Internet, the RPI Learning Management System (Blackboard), software downloads, and email."

Title IX

Title IX, the 1972 Education Amendments to the Civil Rights Act of 1964, states "No person in the United States shall, on the basis of sex, be excluded from participation in, be denied the benefits of, or be subjected to discrimination under any education program or activity receiving federal financial assistance."

Rensselaer has a specific website dedicated to Title IX and Sexual Misconduct Awareness, and you can go here to get help, talk to someone or report sexual misconduct. "Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute is committed to maintaining a safe and healthy learning, living, and working environment in which no member of the Rensselaer community is, on the basis of sex, sexual orientation, gender identity, or gender expression, excluded from participation in, denied the benefits of, or subjected to discrimination or harassment in any Institute program or activity.  The Institute takes gender-based and sexual-based violence seriously, and provides support and information to all members of Rensselaer community."

To help clarify what is sexual assault, awareness of sexual assault and learn some cultural views on sexual assault, take a look at these videos courtesy of International Student Insurance:

Website URL: https://sexualviolence.rpi.edu/

Health & Wellness

All Exchange Visitors are required to maintain health insurance meeting certain minimum levels. Current U.S. regulations require the following coverage:

  • Medical benefits: at least $100,000 per accident or illness
  • Repatriation: $25,000
  • Medical Evacuation: $50,000
  • Deductibles: not to exceed $500 per accident or illness

ISSS staff have worked with a number of insurance providers over the years and can recommend any of the following companies which are listed in alphabetical order:

Welcome to Troy: How to get here

You are responsible for making all of your travel arrangements. Rensselaer does not provide any pickup services. We recommend you make your arrangements in advance to find the most affordable prices.

Air Travel

Bus Travel

Train Travel

  • Amtrak is a national train service. The nearest station is the Albany-Rensselaer Train Station, which is approximately 15 minutes from campus by car. For more information about Amtrak, see their website: http://www.amtrak.com. Please be sure to review the baggage regulations before travelling.

Car Service - Taxi

  • A taxi from the Albany International Airport or the Albany-Rensselaer Train Station to Rensselaer costs approximately $45. Carry a few extra dollars to tip the driver for your baggage. Always verify the total cost of your taxi before you go anywhere. If traveling in a group, make sure that you are not being overcharged for each additional person.

Car Service - Ride Share Apps

  • There are two major services in upstate NY where you can use an app to hail a driver: Lyft and Uber. Both services require you to use your cell phone to request a driver and permit you to enter your final destination. There also may be surcharges if you are picked up at the airport or the train station.
Welcome to Troy: Transportation

RPI Shuttle Service

  • Rensselaer has a free shuttle service, for anyone with an RPI ID, that provides safe transportation around the campus grounds and to downtown Troy. In order to use the shuttle, you must present your RPI ID card. To find more information about the shuttle, including hours of operation, break schedules, and the schedule, please go here: https://info.rpi.edu/rensselaer-shuttle

State Identification/Driver's License

  • You are able to apply for a New York State License, Permit or Non-Driver ID through the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (NYS DMV).
  • However, for those who are at RPI for the first time, you must wait until 10 days after ISSS has completed your SEVIS validation, which is required reporting to the federal government that you have arrived and checked in with ISSS. This process will be completed within the first 30 days after the semester begins and you will get an email from ISSS when it is done. You should not go to the DMV before ISSS tells you because you will be turned away.

Owning a car

CDTA Bus Service [free for RPI students/scholars]

  • All RPI students/scholars are able to use the Capital District Transportation Authority (CDTA) bus service for free using your RPI ID. Note that for new students/scholars, you need to wait at least two business days after receiving your RPI ID card to use it on the bus. For more details about the CDTA service around campus, please go here: https://info.rpi.edu/parking-and-transportation/cdta-bus-service

Taxis & Ride Share Services

  • There are a number of taxi services you can call to request a car pick you up and take you to your final destination. In the area near Troy, some commonly seen companies are Black & White TaxiCapitaland Taxi, and Fast Taxi. Make sure you are getting into a taxi which has a sign on it that says it is a taxi, rather than appearing to be a private car.
  • Ride share services are also commonly used for transportation. Apps such as Lyft and Uber require you to use your cell phone to request a driver and permit you to enter your final destination to obtain a fare estimate in advance. There also may be surcharges if you are picked up at the airport or the train station. Make sure to check that the license plate of the driver listed on your app and picture match the person who picks you up, as in the New York City airports there are known scammers who pose as Lyft or Uber drivers.
Safety information

The Department of Public Safety works to maintain a safe and secure environment for all, and they are responsible for 24-hour campus patrols, the emergency call boxes (or commonly known as blue lights) and more. You can find more information on their website here: https://publicsafety.rpi.edu/

There are emergency call boxes or emergency telephones located in all residential and academic areas, so look around on campus to be aware of where they are located if you need one.

The Department of Public Safety offers personal safety guidance for all students, regardless of if you live on or off-campus. For more information, go here: https://publicsafety.rpi.edu/personal-safety

Need to figure out where you are going on campus? Use the Rensselaer Campus Map from the Department of Public Safety to help you find your destination: http://bit.ly/RPI-campusmap

Housing & Banking

Housing

Exchange visitors who do not have housing arrangements prior to their arrival can choose to stay in a local hotel while they look for permanent housing. The following hotels are the closest to the Rensselaer campus. We recommend that you book a hotel room early as these hotels can get busy and may be sold out.

Banking

The First-Year Experience Office at Rensselaer has compiled a list of banks in the area based on their distance to campus. To view this list, go here: https://studentlife.rpi.edu/fye/beyond-campus/banking

You may be asked to provide your Social Security Number (SSN) when trying to open a bank account. If you are not eligible to apply for a SSN, ask the bank what other documentation they need from you in order to open an account.

Communication

Cell phone & SIM Card

  • ISSS partners with a cell phone provider called StudentSIMS to offer you a free SIM card and plans with low rates. You can find out more about this company and the plans they offer here: https://www.studentsims.com/
  • A great benefit to this is that you can order the free SIM card and have it shipped to you directly -- wherever you are, free of charge -- so that when you land and step off the plane, you can already have the SIM card ready and activated.

RPI Email

  • You will be able to set up your RPI email account after you have completed your Check-In with ISSS and we issue a RIN for you. The process of issuing a RIN takes approximately 1-2 weeks, so please make sure to check in promptly upon your arrival to the U.S..
Understanding Immigration Documents

DS-2019

What is it?

  • The DS-2019 is technically called the "Form DS-2019, Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) Status". This title is listed in capital letters at the top of your DS-2019. This is a document which is issued by International Services for Students and Scholars at Rensselaer, except when issued for Exchange Students by the Office of International Programs.
  • The DS-2019 identifies you, your designated sponsor and provides information about your program and category as an exchange visitor. You should keep all of your DS-2019s forever. RPI only keeps immigration documents for three years after completion of your program.
  • To see a detailed description of the DS-2019, see this link from the Department of State: https://j1visa.state.gov/participants/how-to-apply/about-ds-2019/detailed-description-of-the-ds-2019/

What if I lose my DS-2019?

  • You should contact ISSS as soon as this happens to get guidance on what you should do. Please do not wait until the next time you need your DS-2019 to request a new one.

J-1 Visa

What is it?

  • Your J-1 visa is a sticker put into your passport after you attend an interview at the U.S. Consulate/Embassy outside the U.S. and are approved to seek entry into the U.S. The sticker is what you will show the Custom and Border Protection (CBP) agent at the border when you enter, along with your DS-2019, to indicate you are here as a J-1 Exchange Visitor. You can only obtain a J-1 visa outside of the U.S.. The purpose of the J-1 visa is to permit you to enter the U.S.

What if it expires?

  • If you are inside the U.S. and your J-1 visa has expired, that is okay. You can remain in the U.S. with an expired visa. The purpose of your J-1 visa is to let you enter the U.S., and if you are already here you do not need to be permitted to enter the U.S. If you travel outside of the U.S., you must have an unexpired J-1 visa to enter the U.S..

I-94 Record

What it is?

  • Your I-94 Record is formally known as the Form I-94, "Arrival/Departure Record". It shows the terms of your admission to the U.S. If you enter the U.S. via an air or sea port of entry, you will be issued an electronic document which you can access online. If you enter the U.S. via a land port of entry, you will be issued a paper I-94 in your passport (and do not remove it).
  • The I-94 Record proves your legal J-1 status in the U.S., so it is important for you to check it every time after you enter the U.S., especially if you hold another visa in your passport, so that if something is wrong you can get it fixed immediately. Your I-94 record is only updated after you have entered the U.S.
  • For more information about your I-94, see this link from Study in the States: https://studyinthestates.dhs.gov/2014/08/what-is-the-form-i-94

How do I get it?

  • If you entered via an air or sea port of entry, you can access your Most Recent I-94 Record online from the Customs and Border Protection website here: http://bit.ly/formI94 You will need your passport information to access the document. Please check to make sure that your Class of Admission lists J1 and the Admit Until Date lists D/S. If anything else is listed, contact ISSS immediately.
  • If you entered via a land port of entry, you will be issued a paper I-94 in your passport (and do not remove it). Please check to make sure that your Class of Admission lists J1 and the Admit Until Date lists D/S. If anything else is listed, contact ISSS immediately.

Incorrect information

  • If there is incorrect information on your Most Recent I-94 Record or your Travel History, please save the document and email it to ISSS along with your RIN and explain what was incorrect for us to provide you with guidance.

Passport

What if I lose my passport?

  • If you lose your passport, you need to immediately contact the Consulate/Embassy for your country of citizenship to report it is lost and to get instructions on how to apply for a new passport.

What if my passport is stolen?

  • If your passport is stolen, please notify the local authorities and file a police report, then immediately contact the Consulate/Embassy for your country of citizenship to report it is lost and to get instructions on how to apply for a new passport.

What if it expires?

  • Your passport needs to be valid for at least 6 months into the future at all times as a part of maintaining your J-1 status. You can renew your passport inside of the U.S. For guidance on how to do this, contact the Consulate/Embassy for your country of citizenship to get instructions on how to apply for a new passport.
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Current Exchange Visitors

The International Services for Students and Scholars (ISSS) Office welcomes many Exchange Visitors (EVs) to Rensselaer's campus each year to collaborate with faculty and staff. Prospective Exchange Visitors should first contact the hosting department, rather than the ISSS Office, prior to arriving on campus to ensure open lines of communication between the EV, department, and ISSS.

The ISSS Office is responsible for J-1 Exchange Visitors. However, all international visitors, including those on B-1's or other visa categories must be cleared for Export Control before arriving on campus and come to ISSS to submit documents and obtain a RIN.

Rensselaer Information

Health-Related Matters

In Case of Emergency

  • Call 911
  • Rensselaer Public Safety Emergency Number: 518-276-6611
  • Samaritan Hospital: 2215 Burdett Ave, Troy NY: 518-276-3300

NOTICE: These numbers are for emergency use. If you are in immediate need of medical attention, or in a life-threatening situation, do not hesitate to call these numbers. However, if your case is not an emergency, medical fees may not be covered by insurance and can be very expensive.

For Non-Emergency matters, consider going to Urgent Care. Not sure what is urgent care or how to decide what is better for you? Check out this article from Mount Sinai for information.

  • Urgent care is often much less expensive than going to the emergency room.

Weather in Troy

Troy experiences all four seasons at their best. We have a very warm summer, where temperatures can reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and a very cold winter, where temperatures can reach to 0 degrees Fahrenheit and below with lots of snow.

There are many tools to help you plan for the weather. Some tools we recommend are the Weather Channel and Swackett [for Apple only].

The Department of Public Safety also has information about how you can learn about severe weather and natural disasters: www.rpi.edu/dept/public_safety/campus/weather.html

If the weather approaching campus is severe, a message will be sent out through the RPI Alert system. To learn about this system and update your information, go here: alert.rpi.edu

EV Requirements

2-Year Home Residency Requirement [212(e)]

The two-year home residency requirement [also referred to as 212(e)] means that those who enter the U.S. in J-1 status must return to their country of nationality (or country of last permanent residence) for 24 months in order to be eligible for any potential immigrant visa.

Exchange visitors can be subject to 212(e) based on:

ISSS does not determine if you are subject to 212(e).

Waiver Request for 212(e)

12-Month & 24-Month Bars

The 12 and 24 month bars are different from the two-year home country residence requirement. Exchange visitors may not be subject to the 12 or 24 month bar but may be subject to the home country residence requirement, or vice versa.

Contact ISSS if you have questions regarding this.

Maintaining Your Status: Overview

These are guidelines to ensure that you are maintaining legal status in the United States.

If you are uncertain of whether or not what you are doing is legal, always check with the ISSS Office first.

Basic Overview

  • Notify ISSS of any Change of Address - This must be done within 10 days of the change. Please make sure to also keep your phone numbers (both inside and outside the U.S.) updated.
  • Keep your passport valid at all times - Your passport should be valid for six months into the future at all times. Contact your embassy on what is required for a passport extension.
  • Do not work illegally - If you are not sure what is legal, contact the ISSS staff. Unpaid and volunteer employment still counts as employment for immigration purposes.
  • Keep your DS-2019 valid - Check the Program End Date on your DS-2019. You must update ISSS within 10 days if any of the information listed on your DS-2019 changes, and apply for an Extension of Stay at least 30 days before the Program End Date on the DS-2019 if needed. For details on how to apply for an Extension of Stay, see the 'Finishing Your Program' section on this page.
  • J-1 Health Insurance - J-1 students must maintain health insurance meeting the most recent Department of State requirements.
  • Transfer - To request a transfer to/from Rensselaer, please contact ISSS via email at ISSSoffice@rpi.edu.

 

Finishing Your Program?

As a J-1 Exchange Visitor, you have several options when you are about to complete your program.

30 Day Grace Period

There is a 30-day grace period that begins the day after your Program End Date as listed on Page 1 of the DS-2019 in Box 3.

Per the U.S. Department of State website, "Upon completion of your exchange program, you have a grace period of 30 days to depart the United States."

Request a DS-2019 Extension of Stay

All Exchange Visitors are required to complete their program by the Program End Date listed on their DS-2019.

If you will not complete your program by this date, you must apply for an extension at least 30 days before your Program End Date on your DS-2019.

Extensions filed in an untimely manner may not be processed and the student may have to return home or file for a reinstatement, which can be a costly and timely process.

To apply for a scholar extension of stay, you must submit the following documents to ISSS:

  • Completed and signed Scholar Extension Form - get here: https://rpi.box.com/v/J1scholarextension
  • Letter of invitation from department
  • Proof of funding for remainder of stay
  • CV, which includes your employment at RPI

If the extension is more than 30 days, ISSS must obtain approval from Export Control. This can take up to 30 days.

If requesting an extension of stay, you must also provide proof of insurance coverage for the full period of the extension.

J-2 Dependent

If you would like your spouse and/or child to join you in the United States, you can request the addition of a dependent through the ISSS Office. A new form DS-2019 will be printed for your dependent(s) which can be used to obtain an J-2 visa to enter the United States. As a J-2, your dependent(s)’ status will be entirely linked to your J-1 status. Thus, if the J-1 goes out of status, the J-2 loses status as well. This also means that the J-2 is subject to the same restrictions as the J-1, including 212(e).

Please note: All J-1 and J-2 visa holders must have medical insurance meeting the Department of State requirements for the entire duration of their stay in the United States. For details on this coverage, see the section on 'Health Insurance Requirements'.

Application Instructions

To request that your spouse or child(ren) be issued a DS-2019, please submit the following documents to ISSS:

  • Completed J-1 Dependent Request Form - get here: https://rpi.app.box.com/v/dependentrequest
  • Clear picture of dependent's identifying page in passport
  • Proof of relationship to dependent (e.g. birth certificate or marriage certificate)
  • Proof of sufficient finances (see form for the amount needed)
  • If the funding is not in your name, your sponsor must also provide you with a signed Affidavit of Support: https://rpi.app.box.com/v/affidavitofsupport
Taxes

Please note that ISSS staff are not tax professionals, and ISSS is not able to provide you with any tax guidance or assistance. If you have any questions you must speak with a tax professional.

All international exchange visitors are required to file some kind of tax paperwork each year you are in the U.S.. Filing tax paperwork does not always mean that you will owe money.

The tax year in the U.S. is based on the calendar year, so from January 1 through December 31 per year. Traditionally, tax paperwork is due in April to cover the previous calendar year. An example: Tax paperwork filed for the calendar year of January 1, 2019 through December 31, 2019 would be filed by April 2020.

Every year, you must file the Form 8843 whether or not you have earned any income. This tells the government how long you have been inside the U.S. and in what status (F, J, etc.). If you earned income, you also are required to file federal taxes with the Internal Revenue Service (IRS).

We recommend that you keep copies of all forms you mail and send them using USPS Certified Mail so you have proof of when you sent them and the address where you sent them. DO NOT SUBMIT FORMS TO ISSS.

Need Help?

ISSS recommends you find a tax accountant who is proficient in immigration tax regulations. You will need to pay for assistance from any tax accountant or tax service.

For your convenience, ISSS has teamed up with Sprintax to provide you with easy-to-use tax preparation software designed for non-resident students and scholars. The company website is listed below.

Resources

Working in the U.S.

Social Security Number/ITIN

Please come in to ISSS to discuss this during Open Hours.

J-2 Dependent: Work Authorization

J-2 dependents may be eligible for full-time/part-time study in the United States as well as work authorization through USCIS. Please come in to ISSS to discuss this during Open Hours.

Unlawful Presence

Unlawful presence is a complex policy, and the best way to not have problems is to make sure you maintain your F-1 status and speak with ISSS if you have any concerns.

February 06, 2020 - A permanent nationwide injunction was issued blocking the August 2018 policy from USCIS.

From NAFSA Accrual of Unlawful Presence and F, J, and M Nonimmigration Resource: “On February 6, 2020, the U.S. District Court for the Middle District of North Carolina issued a permanent nationwide injunction blocking the August 8, 2018 USCIS policy memo that sought to change how days of unlawful presence are counted following a violation of F, M, or J nonimmigrant status.”

Previous Update from 2019

USCIS has revised their policy regarding unlawful presence, effective August 9, 2018.

Please see this link for additional information: https://rpi.box.com/v/USCISunlawfulpresence

Travel

Travel Inside U.S.

Exchange visitors travelling within the United States should still carry their immigration documents with them. This includes your passport, visa, and DS-2019. You may be asked for these documents to prove your status at any time by government or law enforcement officials. Puerto Rico is a United States territory and is considered a part of the U.S.

NOTE: Exchange visitors with a pending change of non-immigrant status application or immigrant visa petition should only travel within the United States only, as travel outside the United States has the effect of abandoning the application. You should also travel with a receipt notice of your pending application. We strongly advise consulting with an immigration attorney for travel in these situations.

Travel Outside the U.S.

Skip to the below section on: 

Before You Go Travel FAQs Travel to Canada Travel to Other Countries Renewing your J-1 Visa Entering the U.S.

Before You Go

Before you leave, make sure you have

  • Passport valid 6 months into the future
  • Valid J-1 Visa
  • DS-2019 with valid travel signature signed by ISSS
    • See Page 1 in the Travel Validation section for the date of your last signature.
    • Signatures are valid for 1 year, except for short-term scholars (valid for 6 months)
    • The signature must be valid upon the date of your re-entry to the U.S.

Travel FAQs

  • What if I did not get a travel signature?
  • I received a Form I-515A at the Port of Entry. What do I do?
    • First, contact ISSS immediately. A Form I-515A must be resolved within 30 days of issuance and ISSS must provide you certain documentation to resolve it.
    • Study in the States has created a handout to help you understand the process to resolve a Form I-151A. See this link for more information: bit.ly/formI-515A
  • Do I need a new visa?
    • If it will be valid for your return date to the U.S, no.
    • If not valid, yes. Plan accordingly and contact the U.S. Consulate/Embassy and schedule an appointment before you depart to ensure you have enough time to get your visa to return. To find a U.S. Consulate/Embassy, use this link: www.usembassy.gov/
    • To renew your visa, make sure you have the following documents:
      • Passport
      • DS-2019 (If anything needs to be updated on the DS-2019, come in to ISSS at least two weeks before leaving to request an updated DS-2019.)
      • Financial Documents (should match the finances listed on Page 1 of your DS-2019)
      • Academic Documentation, including: letter from department, description of your research plan and current CV

Travel to Canada

Travel to Other Countries

  • If you are visiting a country other than your own, you may need a visitor's visa to enter. Contact that country's embassy or consulate in the U.S., or search for their website.
  • If you are “transiting” into a country, meaning that your flight home requires an intermediate stop in a third country, find out if a transit visa is required, and if so, if it needs to be obtained in advance. For example, you may need a visa to transit Canada or the United Kingdom.

Renewing your J-1 Visa

Our office recommends applying for a renewed visa in your home country, rather than another third party country. Canada has recently begun limiting the number of third-party country visas it will issue, and if you visa application was denied, you would have to return home before returning to the U.S.

Applying for a new visa can be a lengthy process, so make sure you allow sufficient time.

The visa is an entry document, meaning you can remain in the United States on an expired visa stamp as long as your J-1 status is still valid.

To prepare for your visa interview, see this link for help: http://bit.ly/DOS-EV-visaguidance

Administrative Processing

Any individual applying for a visa, but especially individuals from certain countries or who are pursuing degrees in certain “sensitive areas of study,” may have to undergo a criminal background check and/or undergo administrative processing before obtaining a visa. This can be a very lengthy process and can delay your visa, so please allow time for processing if you believe you may be subject.

Entering the U.S.

What to Expect

The Federal Bureau of Customs and Border Protection (CBP), in conjunction with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), will inspect all internationals entering the U.S. Expect close examination of your documents by these officials. Answer all questions politely and briefly. You are not required to provide them more information beyond the scope of the questions asked.

When first approaching the officer, have your passport, visa, and signed DS-2019 ready for inspection. You should not give any other supporting documents unless requested. We recommend having supporting documents on hand to provide only if requested, such as Rensselaer ID, financial documentation, or a letter from your department detailing your course of study if you are majoring in a sensitive area.

CBP officials are required to record your arrival data into SEVIS at the time you enter, and return your SEVIS DS-2019 to you, after they have stamped it. However, not all CBP officials will have access to SEVIS at their booths in the "primary lanes." Depending upon the Port of Entry, some students may be directed to a secondary inspection area or "student lanes" so that their data can be entered into SEVIS.

Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM)

The Office of Biometric Identity Management (OBIM) is an entry/exit record-keeping system for all non-immigrants traveling to and from the United States. In addition to the usual inspection procedure conducted by CBP officers when you enter the U.S., each non-immigrant will have their fingerprints taken by placing their index fingers on an inkless fingerprint scanner. A digital photograph will also be taken.

Cash Regulations

It is a federal law that anyone carrying more than $10,000 in a monetary instrument of any form must declare that money, or risk having it seized by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials.

Electronic Devices

Travelers should be aware that both CBP and ICE have the right to search any form of electronic media, which CBP and ICE define as any item that may contain information, including computers, floppy and compact disks, DVDs, drives, tapes, mobile phones, personal digital assistants or PDAs, BlackBerry smart phones, cameras, and music players (including iPods and MP3 players), without necessarily suspecting that the individual may be carrying unlawful information. If the computer or other electronic device is used by others, check the browser history and make sure that the contents will not cause problems if searched.

Form I-515A and Denied Admissions

If you are missing documents, or if your DS-2019 does not have a valid travel signature, the border official may issue you a Form I-515A. This allows you temporary entrance into the United States. You will have 30 days to submit the documents requested on the Form I-515A to federal authorities. If you receive a Form I515-A, please contact the ISSS Office immediately.

Anyone who is denied admission at the port of entry should be cautious. Arguing with the custom official is at your own risk and may result in a “expedited removal” which will result in five-year bar on admission to the U.S.. If you are denied admission, first contact the ISSS Office for assistance, but also let the immigration official know that you are willing to withdraw your application for admission to the country rather than be subject to expedited removal if you so choose.

Baggage and Airport Security

Please consult the TSA’s website here: www.tsa.gov/

Any passenger’s baggage may be selected for screening for the Federal Transportation and Security Administration (TSA). This means that they are authorized to open your baggage by any means necessary, even if it is locked, for inspection. If your bag was inspected, there will be a note inside. You should familiarize yourself with what is and isn’t allowed in your baggage, especially your carry-on, before traveling.

Accordion

RPI Departments

This section contains information for the departments at Rensselaer to provide support to international students and exchange visitors and learn more about the ISSS processes.

  • Faculty and staff can sign up to receive Campus Partners messages from ISSS, sent every other month.
  • Faculty and staff can sign up to receive ISSS Insights messages, sent every other week to students with important information and much more.
J-1 Exchange Visitors

The most common type of Exchange Visitor at RPI is short-term scholar or research scholar.

J-1 visas are available for temporary exchange visitors (scholars) conducting research or collaborating with RPI faculty. J-1 exchange visitors may be paid or unpaid, but any temporary paid exchange visitors must come on a J-1 visa (i.e. are not eligible for a B visa). There are three types of J-1 scholars at RPI:

  • J-1 Short-Term Scholar (six months maximum)
  • J-1 Professor/Research Scholar (five years maximum)
  • J-1 Student Interns (individuals who are currently pursuing an undergraduate degree outside of the United States who will be partaking in an internship directly related to this degree)

J-1 Financial Support Documentation Requirements

Below are some guidelines for how prospective visiting scholars should submit proof of finances. Please be aware that this is for brief reference only and information is subject to change. The requirements are subject to change and scholar’s support is evaluated individually.

Amount Required

  • Scholars must be able to demonstrate a minimum financial support of $1,500 USD per month, or $18,000 USD annually, for the entirety of their appointments. Our office will convert any funding not in USD to USD equivalent amounts.
  • Dependents: If a scholar is bringing a spouse or child as a dependent, he/she must demonstrate an additional $8,820 USD annually (or $735 USD per month) for the first dependent and $4,410 USD annually (or $367.50 USD per month) per each additional dependent.

Documentation Requirements

  • Scanned documents are acceptable (ISSS reserves the right to request an original document).
  • Financial documents must be dated within the past six months.
  • Documents should clearly state, in English, the amount of funding.

Examples of Acceptable Funding

  • Below are some of the most frequently used forms of funding. This list is not exhaustive and other sources of funding may be acceptable upon review:
    • Personal bank statement(s)
    • Scholarship or grant award letter, clearly stating amount
    • Letter proving continued funding from scholar’s home institution
    • Letter of funding from Rensselaer

Department Forms for Exchange Visitors

DS-2019 Request Form: https://rpi.box.com/v/J1requestform

Scholar Extension Request Form: https://rpi.box.com/v/J1ScholarExtension

Graduating Students

If a department intends to hire a graduating student in a postdoctoral position, there are two potential options. Contact ISSS to explore these options.

Postdoctoral Position Options

  1. F-1 students are eligible for Optional Practical Training; or
  2. The position may be appropriate for a J-1 Exchange Visitor visa.
Other Visa Types

There are also scholars on other visa types, such as B-1/B-2 and Visa Waiver Program (ESTA). In order for individuals to do research at RPI, they must be approved through Export Control.

Other Visa Types Process

To become approved, individuals work with their inviting department to submit documentation to ISSS. ISSS then submits documentation to Export Control, which is a process that can take over one month to be completed. ISSS is notified when Export Control makes a determination regarding the scholar and then notifies the department.

Within one week of entry to the U.S., the scholar must check in with ISSS. For more instructions on this process, please email ISSS at ISSSoffice@rpi.edu.

B-1/B-2 Visitor - General Information

Please note: The B-1/B-2 visa is only appropriate for very specific activities. For more information on the B-1/B-2 visa visit U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services and  U.S. Department of State – Bureau of Consular Affairs.

Only visitors who would otherwise apply for B visas are eligible for the Visa Waiver Program (ESTA). For details, visit:

Individuals on B-1/B-2 or ESTA are not eligible to receive financial remuneration.

Permanent Positions

If a department intends to hire an Exchange Visitor for longer than five years or for a permanent position, it is recommended that the EV obtain one of the following visas:

  • H-1B visa (6 years maximum, contact Human Resources)
  • TN visa for Canadian and Mexican citizens only. (One year, renewable annually)