You are allowed to enter the U.S. up to 30 days prior to the start date on your I-20 (item 5)/DS2019. Plan to arrive in El Paso, Texas at least one day before the start of orientation. When you arrive at a U.S. port of entry, either an airport or land border crossing, an Immigration official will ask for your passport, F-1 visa, and sealed envelope with the form I-20. The official may also ask for your financial documents again or admission letter. The officer will give you a form I-94 (a small white card issued by the airline or the DHS as an Arrival/Departure Record). Completing the immigration and customs procedures and retrieving your baggage does not usually take a long time. However, when making your plane reservations, plan for two or more hours between flights at the U.S. port of entry. While in the airport, be extremely cautious and do not trust anyone with your luggage, documents or other valuables.
There are taxis readily available at the El Paso airport, and the cost to get to UTEP should be around $20. Bus service is also available but requires two transfers and the schedules are usually hourly until about 5 pm. There are public phones for your use next to the Ground Transportation Counter by baggage claim if you plan to meet someone.
IMPORTANT!! If you plan to work immediately (Teaching or Research Assistants!) you should arrive at least four weeks before the start of classes in order to process your Social Security card in time. Please request employment authorization from the Office of International Programs after your arrival, and allow at least two weeks for the Social Security Office to process the request.
Tuition and fee payment
Degree seeking International Students
Your tuition and fees must be paid upon arrival. UTEP does not accept international checks or currency, so bring adequate personal funds (travelers checks or credit cards) to pay your tuition expenses. If you have received a graduate assistantship (RA or TA), your paycheck will not be issued until a month from the date you start working. You will need to get a social security number in order to work on campus, which can take up to four weeks, so please arrive early! Therefore, bring enough money to cover your initial expenses related to housing, meals, local transportation, books, and supplies. Please note that the salary amount for a TA or RA position listed on the I-20 is only an estimate for 12 months . Not all assistantships are 12 months and not all pay the amount listed. You will receive a letter from your graduate department indicating the actual amount of your salary. Once you get to El Paso, you can open a bank account for your money. This is a simple process, only requiring your passport, visa and I-20.
Exchange Students & Scholars
As an exchange student, you will only be charged for course-related fees (up to $30 per course), for your identification card ($6), Student General Property Deposit ($10), and any course changes after your first registration ($5 per change). UTEP does not accept international checks or currency. Therefore, bring adequate personal funds (traveler’s checks or credit cards) to pay your course expenses. Also, bring enough money to cover your initial expenses related to housing, meals, local transportation, books, and supplies. Once you get to El Paso, you can easily open a bank account for your money. This is a simple process that only requires your passport, visa and DS-2019.
What to pack
Students in the U.S. wear casual clothes, such as blue jeans, shorts, T-shirts and tennis shoes, most of the time. Bring a suit or nice dress for formal occasions such as a presentation or a conference. El Paso’s climate is warm and dry for most of the year. The temperatures here will be between 35-40° C during summer, but can occasionally drop as low as 1-2° during winters. You should bring or plan to buy a good jacket for winter. We also suggest you bring a few traditional forms of dress and some handcrafts or other small items from your home country.
Cell phones can be purchased at local vendors, Cricket, T-Mobile, Verizon, and Virgin Mobile are just a few that sell prepaid and month to month plans. These vendors do not usually require a social security number for prepaid plans or month to month plans. However, if you wish to sign a contract, usually contracts are made for two years, and require a social security number.
To make a long distance call within the U.S. (for example from Houston to El Paso), dial 1 and then the three-digit area code (915 for El Paso), and then the seven-digit local phone number. For example, the number to call the Office of International Programs is 1-915-747-5664. If you are within the area already, then dial only the seven-digit local phone number. (ex: 747-5664)
You can set up a bank account upon arrival with your visa, DS-2019, and a UTEP Identification card. There are 5 ATMs located on campus, you can find them on the campus map. Please bring enough money to cover your stay for at least two weeks in the US in order to establish yourself.
We recommend that you not carry large amounts of cash. Traveler’s checks in U.S. dollars issued by most banks in your home country are widely accepted as well.
Medical services and medicine in the U.S. are very costly. Because of this, you are required to have medical insurance coverage while you are attending UTEP. Because of our location on the Mexican border, students from Mexico are exempt from this requirement but are highly recommended to have insurance coverage for medical emergencies in the U.S. At the beginning of every semester, you are automatically charged for the UTEP health insurance policy. There are other insurance companies in the U.S. that offer medical insurance or you may use your insurance from your home country. If you select another insurance company, you are required to have coverage of up to $50,000 in medical expenses, $10,000 minimum in medical evacuation and $7,500 in repatriation coverage. These benefits must be specified in the policy you purchase. To use insurance not provided by UTEP, or if you are covered by UTEP insurance through your Research Assistant or Teaching Assistant position, you must request a waiver of the mandatory fee from the Office of International Programs at the start of every semester. This waiver must be requested and submitted to the Cashier’s Office by the 12 th day of classes each semester you are at UTEP.
It is recommended that you have a thorough medical check-up for your own protection before you leave your home country. If you have personal preferences for medicines that you use for fevers, headaches and colds, you should plan to bring those with you. Otherwise, most common medications are available in U.S. stores. However, some products in the U.S. may require a doctor’s prescription. Therefore, if you take prescribed medications, you should ask your doctor or pharmacist for a copy of the prescription to bring with you. We also advise that you update all of your immunizations in your home country and bring proof with you.
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