International Fellows Guide
Guide for Incoming Fellows
Welcome! We are happy that you are planning your fellowship at the University of Virginia. The following guide contains basic information about logistics and the practical matters related to your time here. Please look it over and, if you need help, have questions or are curious about any matter, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In order to apply for a J-1 visa, you need a Certificate of
Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1 status), or DS-2019. The
International Studies Office (ISO) will prepare a DS-2019 with
directions for its use in applying for a J-1 visa. In order to get the
DS-2109, the Center for Global Health needs the following fellow visa
information from you. Please complete the online form here.
If you are a Fogarty International Center/National Institutes of Health supported fellow, your work will be tracked by the NIH Careertrac system. We ask that you read the Letter to Trainees and complete the Privacy Document (please attach completed copy to your J-1 Visa Info Form.)
Embassy Interview and SEVIS
We encourage you to contact the US embassy in your area. (A complete
list of American embassies is here.) to schedule an interview
so that you can plan to interview based on the date you expect to
receive your DS-2019. The DS-02019 will be sent to you approximately
4-6 weeks after submitting the required information. Before your
embassy interview you will also need to pay the SEVIS fee to facilitate
your entry into the US. SEVIS is a government, computerized system that
maintains and manages data about international students and scholars
with F-1, J-1, and M-1 status during their stay in the US. CGH can help
you pay this cost directly.
Flights/Entering the US
We encourage you to plan your flight itinerary to arrive in the US soon after your embassy interview. CGH can help arrange your flights and pay the cost directly. CGH can help to arrange, but cannot pay for airfare for your family. You can enter the US up to 30 days prior to the official appointment start date on your J-1 visa or up to 30 days after (with the proviso that you register with ISO and complete the ISO J-1 orientation within that same 30 day period.) But you cannot enter the US outside of this timeframe; your J-1 visa will no longer be valid. If you get a J-1 visa and fail to enter the US and register within the specified dates, you may not be able to easily obtain another visa.
By law, all incoming fellows are required to attend a New J-1
Scholar Orientation no later than 30 days after the start date
indicated on the DS-2019. These orientations occur only on each Monday
and Wednesday at 10AM in ISO (208) Minor Hall. Please arrive a few
minutes early. Unfortunately, late arrivals cannot be accommodated. If
you arrive after 10AM, you will be asked to attend the next available
orientation. No appointment in necessary and each New J-1 Scholar
Orientation lasts 30-40 minutes. Please plan to stay for the whole
meeting. No other times or days are available for this important
activity. Be sure to bring your passport (J-1 and J-2), DS-2019 and
proof of health insurance if available at the time. More information
about entering the US and completing the ISO J-1
orientation/registration is available here.
If your family will be coming with you, they will have J-2 visas - linked to your J-1 visa. More information about J-2 dependents is available here.
Funding your fellowship/Social Security Number
The Center for Global Health will pay you a stipend for the duration of your time here. Actually receiving the funds is contingent upon successfully applying for a US. Social Security Number (SSN.) You can apply for the SSN card 10 days after your arrival or 10 days after the official start date on your visa: whichever occurs first. The CGH research administrator will help you do this. After you submit your application, it typically takes approximately 2 weeks to receive your SSN card.
Unless your country has a tax treaty with the US, you will have to pay federal income tax which will be deducted from your stipend check. The rate is usually 14% of your gross income. You will also have to file a US federal tax return. The ISO and the UVA Foreign National Tax office are resources for information on this.
The SSN you receive will enable you to work in this country. Although a SSN is required to apply for credit, you will generally not be able to apply for credit while you are here. Lack of a credit history can impact you in a number of ways. For instance, when you apply for some utilities, you may have to pay extra (refundable) fees or deposits because of your lack of credit history. More information about the US Social Security Number is available here.
Post Doctoral Office: Post-Graduate Enhancement Program
This UVA office acts as a clearinghouse for much information and resources for international and other post-doctoral fellows. You may want to browse their website located here.
The University of Virgina has an institutional commitment to enhancing the post-doctoral experience. We feel that it is necessary to improve the overall quality of research at the institution, improve our national/international ranking, improve federal compliance and ultimately, it is the right thing to do for this group which represents one of the most important components of the University's research endeavors.
Health Insurance is considered part of your stipend. The Center
for Global Health will arrange and pay for your health insurance.
Information about coverage as part of the benefit available through
the Post-Graduate Enhancement Office available here.
Information about the plan and how it operates is available here
as part of the UVA Benefits Office site. This is particularly useful
information and it is a good idea to become familiar with it.
Please apply for health insurance within 31 days of your arrival. It is your responsibility to complete and sign the insurance application forms.
If you are a non-doctoral or pre-doctoral fellow, you are not eligible for the UVa insurance provided by the Office of Post Graduate Enhancement. CGH will alternatively procure insurance from MEDEX.
The critical distinction with MEDEX insurance is that it is based on
reimbursement. If you need healthcare services, you will need to pay
the provider directly and then apply to MEDEX for reimbursement of
costs. In the even of an emergency when costs can be substantive, MEDEX
will arrange to pay the provider directly as indicated in their
description of services found below. Please review the MEDEX coverage
carefully to make sure that you understand.
Generally the patient would pay out of pocket and submit for reimbursement for outpatient treatment or other minor care. However if the patient is hospitalized, requires inpatient care, a surgical intervention or an evacuation we would pay directly to the provider. The most important step you can take is to call our Emergency Response Center (800-527-0218 or 1-410-453-6330) 24 hours a day so we can assist with the situation.
If your family will be here with you as J-2 dependents, they will be required by federal law to have health insurance. CGH cannot assist with this cost. As MAMSI and other UVA plans can be expensive, alternative health insurance options are available including MEDEX.
When you arrive, CGH will arrange a place for you to stay until you find permanent housing. We will help, but you should browse the following websites to get a sense of what is available in the area. Housing and utility (gas, electric, water, etc.) costs can be expensive so it is good to get an idea of what costs actually are. If you are a long-term (1 year) fellow, you may want to apply for university housing prior to your arrival. Typically, there is a lot of competition for this housing, so try to apply early.
Local Newspapers/Plublications Housing Listings
The following links may be helpful. Most fellows try to live within walking distance of UVA. Public transportation is available.
CTS Charlottesville Transit (Bus); University of Virginia students,
faculty and staff can ride the Charlottesville Transit
Service (CTS) for free with a valid U.Va ID. This program, funded
by the University of Virginia, makes it easier for the U.Va community
to get around Charlottesville and reduce traffic and pollution by not
using their own vehicles.
UTS University Transit (Bus) System schedule and routes; The UVa campus and immediate area is served by UTS. UTS buses are free, and even though there are signs indicating that riders must be prepared to show a UVa identification card, this rule is almost never enforced.
If you want to drive and you have a valid home country driver's license or an international driver's license, you may drive in Virginia for 6 months after your arrival. After 6 months, you will need a Virginia drivers license to legally drive. To apply for a Virginia driver's license, you must have the following documents ready: Passport, I-94, DS-2019, SSN (J-1), or letter from the SSA saying you do not have a SSN (J-2 only), and evidence you live in Virginia : an apartment contract or lease, a bank or utility statement, etc., showing your Virginia residential address. Information from the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles is available here.
Most banks in the U.S. require you to have a SSN in order to open an account, while others do not. They will open accounts for you using your passport and DS-2019.
Two banks in Charlottesville that do not require SSNs are Bank of America http://www.bankofamerica.com/and Wachovia Bank http://www.wachovia.com/. There are several branches of Bank of America and Wachovia Bank in the UVa vicinity. CGH staff will be happy to go with you.
Communicating in English in the US can be challenging. Even fellows who are fluent in English must adjust to cultural and regional expressions and patterns. You may be interested in English lessons with other foreign nationals who are also adjusting to working in this country. The University of Virginia International Center offers a number of options in English language programs. In addition, there is a strong local ESL (English as a Second Language) program administered by the City of Charlottesville which a number of CGH fellows have used. The Center for American English Language and Culture is another good resource with courses geared specifically for non-native speaking students.
A UVA user id (email account) is the basis for access to a number of technology and computer related services. CGH will help you obtain a user id. From there, you can obtain Netbadge Access so that you will be able to use online resources for research purposes.
You can also use UVA computers and library services as a guest. The Claude Moore Health System Library will loan you a laptop computer (as well as cameras, projectors, and videocameras) for up to 3 days at a time. The library also offers a number of services that may be of interest; it is usually helpful to browse their website for classes on using the library resources. Extensive publications, books, journals and other items, are available online. CGH and library staff can help you access these materials. We can also help you arrange access to UVA online resources if you are working from home, another site, or if you have returned to your home country. A description of methods for arranging this access is available here. We recommend UVa Anywhere.
Most CGH fellows work in MR-6 (the Carter-Harrison Research Building, #20 here on the UVA map) or the Health System/Hospital area. After you receive your SSN, you can apply for a UVA id card which can give you access (after regular working hours) to Health System facilities if you will be working late.
Center for Global Health/UVA Faculty and Staff
When you first arrive, we encourage a meeting with your research
mentors to review and discuss plans for your time here. In addition, we
invite you to meet with the CGH administrative staff to become familiar
with what positions they hold and how they can be helpful to you.
Contact information, both email and office phone numbers, for CGH
personnel is available here.
International Scholar/Research Community at UVA
Please subscribe to ISO's email list for visitors with J-1 status. This is the way that the International Studies Office keeps in touch with the J-1 community. ISO will not subscribe you to the list. You must do this yourself.
Simply go to https://list.mail.virginia.edu/mailman/listinfo/jvisas, scroll down the page, and follow the instructions!