Rice Unconventional Wisdom

 Pre-Arrival Information

travel2

Applying for your Visa/ Planning your Trip/ Hotels & Housing/ What to Bring

Applying for your F-1/J-1 Visa

Coming from abroad: Upon receiving your I-20 or DS-2019, you will need to apply for your F-1/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 “Certificate of Eligibility” for a temporary stay in the U.S. (Form I-20 or DS-2019 by Rice University or another sponsor).
3. Financial documents to prove you have the funds required for a least a year’s stay in the U.S. (as indicated on the I-20 or DS-2019).
4. Proof of payment of the SEVIS fee. All F-1 and 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 I-20/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 F-1 or 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 F-1 or J-1 visa, you must present the immigration officer at the port of entry the following documentation

    • I-20 (F visa) or DS-2019 (J visa)
    • Financial support, as shown on your I-20 or DS-2019
    • Offer letter of admission to Rice University
    • SEVIS fee receipt (for F-1 or 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 admission stamp in your passport to ensure that it grants F-1 or J-1 status for “D/S” (duration of status). For dependents it should show F-2 or J-2 status for “D/S”. If it is incorrect, return to the immigration officer to correct it there. You will be able to print your I-94 admission status by visiting http://www.cbp.gov/i94

Coming from another US institution: If you are currently studying at another school in the U.S. but will be leaving the U.S. prior to coming to Rice, simply show the Immigration Officer your I-20 or DS-2019 from Rice upon re-entry to the U.S. You do not need to go to the U.S. consulate unless your student visa has expired. If you will not be leaving the U.S., please check-in with OISS upon your arrival to campus.

Changing visa status to F-1/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 an F-1 or 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 I-20 or DS-2019
    2. It must be in time to attend the mandatory international orientation (see Orientation for dates/times)
    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.

2018 International Mandatory Spring Orientation:
Undergraduate Exchange Students: January 5, 2018
All Other Students: January 12, 2018

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.
  • Graduate Airport Pick-Up Program - Arrival hospitality program offered to new international graduate students arriving for the Fall semester.  Details of program sent with new admissions packets, along with access code to be submitted with sign-up form.
  • Indian Students at Rice (ISAR) Airport Pick-Up Program - Please sign up for ISAR's Airport Pick-Up Program at http://tinyurl.com/isarairportpickup
  • Rice Chinese Students and Scholars Club Airport Pick-Up Program - Please send your name and flight information to: Ricejieji@gmail.com
  • 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.

Housing

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 800-465-4329. Complimentary shuttle to airport (4:30AM-Midnight) and Deer Park Mall.
  • Doubletree Hotel Intercontinental - 15747 JFK Blvd., Houston, TX 77032. Tel: 281-848-4000.

Near Hobby Airport:

  • Econo Lodge Hobby Airport - 8381 Broadway Street, Houston, TX 77061. Tel: 713-645-1333. Free continental breakfast.
  • Days Inn Hobby Airport - 1505 College Ave., Houston, TX 77587. Tel: 713-946-5900.
  • Hilton Hobby Airport - 8181 Airport Blvd., Houston, TX 77061. Tel: 713-645-3000.

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

On-campus housing - available for undergraduate students
Resources: http://housing.rice.edu/

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. Students often prefer to share an apartment in order to save money. Occasionally, rooms in homes are available at a lower cost.

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. Graduate international students benefit from the use of the Graduate Student Loan Closet, which allows them to borrow used household items collected by the Faculty Women’s Club. This service is available at the beginning of the academic semesters and thereafter by arrangement with the project’s coordinator.

Recommended Resources
Rice Graduate Apartments (713-348-4723) - http://gradapts.rice.edu/
Rice Village Apartments (713-348-4050)
Morningside Square Apartments (713-348-4050)

Graduate students should have already received information regarding this option - if you wish to stay there, you need to return the application and pay a deposit as soon as possible. The designs include a centrally located space for social activities, a laundry room equipped with washing machines and dryers on each floor, a study room equipped with computers, and enclosed areas with locks for bike racks. A free shuttle bus operates between the Graduate apartments and all parts of the campus. A shuttle provides transportation to area stores for groceries and household items on Saturdays. You may ask about housing issues during the International Student Orientation.

Rice’s listings of garage apartments, rooms, and students desiring roommates - http://offcampus.rice.edu/

Move-in/Move-out Checklist - http://www.legalsurvival.com/move-in_move-out_checklist.pdf

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
AMANDA BOOS
Almost Home Properties
3300 Chimney Rock, Suite 104
Houston, TX 77056
713-789-3777
1-800-798-3778
Email: aboos@houston-apartments.com
- Highly recommended, has helped many students/scholars in the past.

KAREN REICHEK - REALTOR
APARTMENT DIRECTIONS
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
http://houston1apartments.com
http://www.umovefree.com/City/houston-apartments-tx
http://www.houston-apartments.com
http://www.apartments.com
http://www.myapartmentmap.com
http://www.apartmentlist.com
http://www.apartmenthawk.com
http://www.apartmentguide.com
http://www.apartment-locators.com
http://www.apartmentwiz.com
http://www.renthouston.com
http://www.apartmentgurus.com
http://www.myapartmentmap.com
https://www.trulia.com/for_rent/Houston,TX


Utilities
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.

Completed Health Data Form: Obtain all the required immunizations and get a recent physical examination by a qualified health professional before coming to Rice. The Rice University Health Data Form must be completed and submitted to the Rice University Student Health Service before you can register for classes. This form can be downloaded from http://health.rice.edu/ 

Health Insurance:  Standard Rice health insurance plans (Aetna and SAS) have an effective start date of August 15.  If you will be arriving early or beginning your program in the summer, you will need to secure alternate insurance that will cover you until your school plan becomes effective.  You are free to select the insurance company of your choice for this interim period.  However, we do recommend Atlas Insurance as a good option, as it meets the minimum requirements for specific visa categories, such as the J-1, and has the flexibility of enrolling for the number of days that you need.  For more information, please visit: http://www.internationalstudentinsurance.com/travel-medical-insurance/

Money: 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, books and supplies, transportation, etc. Some students may have been billed for insurance and students fees before leaving for the U.S. If you will be a student and have not already paid for health insurance before leaving your country, you will be billed for student health insurance in the amount of approximately $1500-$2200 at registration. (Payment on part of the bill insurance and fees may be deferred, but you will still need to pay at least 25% of the fees and health insurance bill at registration.) If you have been awarded a research assistantship or fellowship paying a stipend, then your first paycheck of a half-month’s salary should be ready shortly after you arrive.
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.

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

Paying your student bill - Rice's Cashier has a multitude of options for payment, please visit their website for detailed options, including an option specifically for international payments using a service called Flywire.