Rice Unconventional Wisdom

Pre-Arrival Information

Applying for your Visa

Planning your Trip

Hotels & Housing

What to Bring

What to Expect at the Airport

Applying for your J-1 Visa

Coming from abroad: Upon receiving your DS-2019, you will need to apply for your J-1 visa at a U.S. consulate or embassy (*See exception for Canadians below). We recommend you visit the website of the US Embassy/Consulate where you wish to apply for your visa, and follow the procedures for documentation, interview request, etc. In general, you will need to present:

1. A valid passport from your own government.
2. A DS-2019 “Certificate of Eligibility” for a temporary stay in the U.S.
3. Proof of Financial Support showing the funds required for the duration of stay in the U.S.
4. Proof of payment of the SEVIS fee. All J-1 visa applicants need to pay the one time SEVIS fee prior to applying for a visa. Keep your receipt as proof of payment to present to the US Consulate, port of entry officials when entering the U.S., and for your records. For more information visit: www.FMJfee.com.
5. Completed visa application forms – be sure to indicate your name as stated on your passport and your DS-2019 documents to better ensure that your name on your visa stamp will be displayed properly.

Canadian exception: Canadians are not required to obtain a visa stamp in their passport to enter the U.S. on an J-1 visa. Instead they are adjudicated at the Port of Entry when they cross the border into the U.S. If you are coming on a J-1 visa, you must present the immigration officer at the port of entry the following documentation

    • DS-2019
    • Financial support, as shown on DS-2019
    • Offer letter of employment at Rice University
    •  SEVIS fee receipt (for J-1 visa holders). Payment must be made in advance, and cannot be made at the airport or border.
    •  Passport, valid for at least six months into the future
    • Upon clearing immigration, check your I-94 card (white arrival/departure card) or entry stamp to ensure that it grants J-1 status for “D/S” (duration of status). For dependents it should show J-2 status for “D/S”. If it is incorrect, return to the immigration officer to correct it there.

Coming from another U.S. institution: If you are currently working at another institution in the U.S. and will be transferring your J-1 SEVIS record to Rice, be sure to contact an OISS advisor to assist you in coordinating your transfer. Please be aware that timing is very important when transferring a J-1 SEVIS record from one institution to another, as you may not have a gap of time between jobs.

Changing visa status to J-1 from another visa category: If you are already in the United States on a different visa category and wish to change your status to a J-1 visa, you have two options: 1) travel and apply for a new visa abroad, or 2) request a change of status from USCIS without departing the U.S. Please note that each process poses potential risks and processing times, so please speak with an OISS advisor about which process is most appropriate for you.

Planning your Trip

Booking your FlightPlease make note of the following:
· Houston Airports – Bush Intercontinental Airport (IAH) and Hobby Airport (HOU)
· Arrival Date – Your date of entry must consider the following:

    1. It may not be more than 30 days prior to the start date indicated on your DS-2019
    2. If you will be arriving more than 30 days after your indicated start date, please contact OISS as we will need to amend your DS-2019
    3. It must fall within the validity dates on your visa stamp

· Connecting flights - Plan for longer time in between flights due to U.S. entry procedures. It can take a long time to go through immigration and customs inspections.

Transportation from the Airport

  • Super Shuttle – call (800) 258-3826 or visit www.supershuttle.com to make a reservation and use code OWLS1 for a 10% discount. The estimated cost is $30, and the shuttle van will transport you to the location you indicate in the reservation. Upon arrival, look for the Super Shuttle desk in the baggage claim area.
  • Taxi – costs an estimated $60 from Intercontinental Airport, or $40 from Hobby Airport. An additional charge may apply for heavy luggage such as trunks. There is no charge for a regular suitcase. Taxi drivers are customarily tipped about 15% of the fare. You do not need to make a reservation ahead of time, simply go to the taxi pick-up area near baggage claim. Expect about 45 minute drive from Intercontinental to Rice area, or 25 minutes from Hobby Airport.
  • Car rental – Prices vary, but may be researched online on various travel websites. You will probably want to make a reservation ahead of time. Be sure to ask for a Houston map, and have them indicate where Rice University/Houston Medical Center is located.
  • Driving Directions to Rice: Rice University is located at 6100 Main Street, Houston, TX 77005. It is across from Hermann Park and the Houston Medical Center. Take Highway 59, exit S Shepherd Dr & Greenbriar St, take Greenbriar St going south, and take a left on Rice Boulevard.



Temporary Housing - Hotels, Hostels & Dormitories
Information on area hotels is available at http://explore.rice.edu/explore/Hotel.asp.

Write or call ahead to make reservations. All prices are subject to change. 17% taxes are added to all hotel rates. If you would like the hotel discount for university students and personnel, please be sure to state this when making a reservation. Most hotels require paid reservations in advance or a major credit card account number. Unpaid reservations are usually lost after 6:00 p.m., unless the hotel is notified in advance of your late arrival plans.

Most hotels have free swimming pools and 24-hour coffee shop or restaurant. Some have free shuttle bus services. Some allow children to stay at no extra charge. The term “double” usually means two double beds. A “single” usually costs less for a couple. The cost of a “single” and a charge for an extra person may be less than that for the “double.”

Near Houston Bush Intercontinental Airport:

  • Holiday Inn - Airport - 1522 JFK Boulevard, Houston, TX 77032. Tel.: 281-449-2311 or Toll Free number 1-800-465-4329. Single or double rooms weekday $149 - 164/night; weekend $75 - 89/night, plus tax. Complimentary shuttle to airport (4:30AM-Midnight) and Deer Park Mall.
  • Doubletree Hotel Intercontinental - 15747 JFK Blvd., Houston, TX 77032. Tel: 281-848-4000. Room prices range from $169 to $199/night, plus tax.

Near Hobby Airport:

  • Econo Lodge Hobby Airport - 8381 Broadway Street, Houston, TX 77061. Tel: 713-645-1333. The average price of a room is $69/night, plus tax. Free continental breakfast.
  • Days Inn Hobby Airport - 1505 College Ave., Houston, TX 77587. Tel: 713-946-5900. Room prices range from $45.90 to $64/night, plus tax.
  • Hilton Hobby Airport - 8181 Airport Blvd., Houston, TX 77061. Tel: 713-645-3000. Rooms cost between $119 and $139/night, plus tax..

Youth Hostel/Dormitory available at these locations:
(**Note: Hostels in the US may not be comparable to those in Europe)

  • Houston International Hostel - 5302 Crawford at Oakdale, Houston, TX. Tel.: 713-523-1009. Registration is between 8:00 – 10:00 a.m. or 5:00 – 11:00 p.m., or by arrangement. Call only during office hours. Reservations are available, but not required. It is located at a reasonable walking distance to Rice.
  • International House Dormitory - 2719 Capitol Ave, Houston, TX 77003. Tel.: 713-237-8443. Space is limited. Call in advance. However, safety is a concern in downtown Houston, especially in the evening.

Permanent Housing
Off-campus housing - Apartments and rooms for rent far from Rice University may be less expensive than those nearby. Public transportation may be a problem with the more distant locations, however. If you do not own a car, you should find out about bus routes before selecting a place to live.

Rates vary according to location, neighborhood, amenities provided, age, and condition of the complex. The average one bedroom unfurnished (without furniture, but with appliances) apartment near campus costs approximately $500-$750 a month. Renting with furniture adds approximately $300 more per month. An unfurnished two-bedroom apartment has an average cost of approximately $600-$950. Utilities (gas, electricity and telephone) are usually charged separately and add approximately $150 to your monthly costs. .

The standard apartment lease is for a period of six or twelve months. A small number of apartments also provide short-term leases, either furnished or unfurnished. You will be expected to pay a deposit of approximately $300 when you sign a lease on an apartment in addition to paying the first and last month’s rent in advance. If you break your lease or damage the apartment, you will lose your deposit. Be very careful before signing anything. Get advice from current students and from your academic department. Be sure to get as much information as you can before you sign in a contract. Read your lease carefully!

In the U.S., furnished apartments do not include bed linens, towels, silverware, china, or kitchen utensils (pots and pans). Basic items will cost you $350 or more to purchase. Be sure to include “garage sales” and discount stores in your search in order to save money on many household items.

Recommended Resources
http://offcampus.rice.edu/ - Rice’s online resource website for listings of garage apartments, rooms, and students desiring roommates.

Tenant Rights Information from Texas' Attorney General - https://texasattorneygeneral.gov/cpd/tenant-rights, and the Texas Young Lawyers Association and State Bar of Texas' - Tenants' Rights Handbook

Apartment Locators – your free personal resource to finding housing in Houston
Almost Home Properties
3300 Chimney Rock, Suite 104
Houston, TX 77056
Email: aboos@houston-apartments.com
- Highly recommended, has helped many students/scholars in the past.

Email: kreichek@aol.com
Office -713-789-7316, EXT. 124
Cell - 713-826-6527
- Free service, highly recommended, has helped many international students/scholars at Rice.

Additional Resources


Visit www.relocatingtohouston.org to locate and compare rates for different service providers. You may contact the company directly to verify rates.

Electricity: For electric companies, visit http://www.powertochoose.org 
Deposits range from $80-$400 and up, depending on size of apartment. Deposits can be waived if co-signer can be found who will be responsible for amount of deposit if you do not pay the final bill. You may also get the deposit waived if you can show a ‘letter of credit’ from your previous U.S. utility service with which you did business for at least one year. The letter of credit must show no more than 2 late payments. Most companies require at least 24 hours notice before it can turn on your electricity.

Gas: For gas, visit http://www.centerpointenergy.com or call Tel.: 1-800-752-8036. A deposit of $45 - $120 (could be more expensive) is paid to the service man, who turns on the gas.

Landline Telephones/Internet: AT&T– visit www.att.com. If telephone outlets are available in the house or apartment, the basic installment fee is ~$55.00. There are additional charges for special services. Applicants may be asked to give a U.S. Social Security number and a Texas ID or Driver’s License number. If you don't have a Social Security number, you may be able to provide your passport ID number.

Cell Phones: For monthly cell phone contracts, you will typically be asked to give a U.S. Social Security Number. If you do not have one, you may be asked to pay a deposit instead. Prepaid or Pay-As-You-Go options typically do not require a deposit. You may also want to consider J1 SIM (https://j1simcards.com), as they offer unlimited international calls to many countries in addition to their service in the U.S. You can also request the SIM card to be sent to your home country, allowing you to have a working phone immediately when you arrive in the U.S.

What should I be sure to bring?
Clothing: Houston weather is hot and humid in the summer and generally mild in the winter, though we do occasionally have freezing temperatures. The average winter day will be from 45o F to 65o F (7o C to 18o C). Clothing needs range from light summer cottons to medium weight winter coats, jackets, and sweaters. Rain can be expected any time of the year. A light raincoat and umbrella are useful. An all weather coat or jacket is ideal for the winter.

: We suggest you bring at least $2,500 in traveler’s checks with some in U.S. currency for convenience, because you will need money for initial expenses upon arrival – for hotels, apartment leasing, utility deposits, food, transportation, etc. Scholars paid by Rice may not receive their first paycheck until 2-4 weeks after starting work, due to payroll cycles.
Resource: How to Open a Bank Account

Credit Card: We recommend you apply for a credit card in your home country before coming to Houston. In the U.S., you cannot get a credit card unless you have established credit, and many internationals get turned down because of this. Also, many people use credit card/debit card instead of cash.

Arriving at the Airport

At the airport where you enter the U.S., an immigration officer will inspect your passport, visa, DS-2019 (if applicable), documents from Rice and letters indicating how you will be financed while living in the U.S. Keep these items easily available. Do not pack them away in your luggage. The official should stamp your passport with your entry stamp. The entry stamp is very important because it shows your admission status. You will also be able to print out your I-94 information after arriving to the U.S. at www.cbp.gov/i94/. Finally, the customs officials will inspect your baggage for illegal materials. There may be dogs sniffing for drugs as well.

For more information on traveling to the USA and applying for a visa visit: http://travel.state.gov.