J-1 Scholar Prearrival Packet
The International Faculty and Staff Services (IFSS) Office
IFSS helps the University of Wisconsin-Madison with all aspects of non-student immigration. IFSS acts as the liaison between the University and all government agencies involved in immigration matters. IFSS also assists UW-Madison and individual J-1 Scholars to comply with immigration laws and regulations. We do not work for any part of the U.S. government. We are here to assist you with immigration matters in every way possible.
Remember, however, that you are responsible for maintaining your legal status.

International Faculty and Staff Services
Office of Human Resources
21 N. Park Street, Suite 5101
Madison, Wisconsin 53715, USA

E-Mail: ischolars@ohr.wisc.edu
Telephone: 1-608-265-2257
Office hours: 7:45 AM to 4:30 PM, Monday through Friday

9 Points to Remember When Applying for a Non-Immigrant Visa
  1. Ties to your home country: Under U.S. law, all applicants for non-immigrant visas are viewed as potential immigrants until they can prove otherwise. This means that you must be able to show strong home country ties. "Ties" to your home country are things that connect you to your home town, homeland, or current place of residence. Each person's situation is unique, and there is no standard explanation, document, certificate, or letter which can guarantee a visa stamp. If you overstayed any authorized stay in the U.S. previously, be prepared to explain what happened clearly and concisely, with documentation if available.
  2. English: Remember that the interview will be done in English. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview, but do not prepare speeches!
  3. Speak for yourself: Do not bring parents or family members with you to the interview. The consular officer wants to interview you, not your family. If you are not prepared to speak for yourself, this leaves a negative impression. 
  4. Know the program and how it fits your career plans: If you cannot explain why you will participate in a particular program in the U.S., you may not convince the consular officer that you are planning to return to your home country once you complete your program. You should be able to explain how this J-1 exchange program relates to your future when you return home.
  5. Be brief: All consular officers are under time pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision on the impressions they form during the first minute of the interview. This means that what you say first and the initial impression you create are important to your success. Keep your answers to the officer's questions short and to the point.
  6. Additional documentation: It should be immediately clear to the consular officer which documents you are presenting and what they mean. Long written explanations cannot be read or evaluated quickly. You only have 2-3 minutes of interview time.
  7. Employment: The J-1 Program allows you to use different financial sources, including a salary from your J-1 Sponsor. However, your main purpose to come to the United States should be to participate in your J-1 Exchange Program.
  8. Dependents remaining at home: If your spouse and children are staying in your country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves when you are away. This can be tricky if you are the main financial support for your family. If your family chooses to join you in the U.S. later, it could be helpful to have them apply at the same consulate where you applied for your visa.
  9. Stay positive: Do not argue with the consular officer. If you are denied a U.S. visa, ask the officer for a list of documents they would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal. Also try to get the reason you were denied your visa stamp in writing.

Scholar Responsibilities
  • Register with IFSS as soon as possible after arrival on campus. You will need to provide copies of your DS- 2019, I-94 arrival record, passport identity page, and U.S. visa stamp (if you received one) in Terra Dotta, under the "Submit Arrival Documentation" request. 
  • Make sure you and all your dependents comply with the mandatory Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) requirements by either enrolling in SHIP or filing a SHIP waiver as soon as possible upon arrival.
  • Engage only in work listed in your appointment or invitation letter for your current J-1 program.
    • For any activities outside your original agreement, please set up a meeting with IFSS. 
  • Notify IFSS of any changes in your and/or dependent’s name, address and telephone number within 10 days of that change.
  • Notify IFSS when you complete your program. 
Failure to take care of these responsibilities could result in termination of your program and loss of J-1 status. Termination requires immediate departure from the U.S.

Exchange Visitor Arrival Deadline
IFSS must report to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) when each J-1 scholar arrives in Madison. IFSS has 30 days from the start date of your program (your DS-2019 start date) to report your arrival in SEVIS.
Do not attempt to enter the U.S. more than 30 days before your DS-2019 start date. You would likely be denied entry to the U.S. in this case. 
If you do not arrive in Madison and notify IFSS within 30 days of your DS-2019 start date, your J-1 record will be invalid. Once your J-1 record is invalid, you are not eligible to get a J-1 visa stamp or enter the U.S. as a J-1. Do not not attempt to enter the U.S. more than 30 days after the start date on the DS-2019. You would likely be denied entry to the U.S. in this case. 
If you are unable to arrive in Madison to start your program within this 30 day window or if you have decided not to pursue your J-1 Exchange Visitor Program anymore, please notify IFSS immediately. If you will be arriving later than you thought, IFSS can change the start date on your program to allow you to obtain the visa stamp and enter the U.S. at a later date. Or, if you will not be coming to the U.S. anymore, IFSS can cancel your J-1 program. 
If you need to change your start date and be issued a new DS-2019, you will have the option to either have the new document sent to you or we can hold the DS-2019 at IFSS until you arrive. If you are not given the new DS-2019, you can still enter the U.S. with the original DS-2019. At the border, Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will see the correct dates and you should be allowed entry.

Please notify IFSS immediately if you know that you will not be able to meet the start date, as indicated on your DS-2019 form.

Initial Expenses
You should have some U. S. currency on hand when you arrive, since there is not a currency exchange office in Madison. If you have a debit card, you can use any ATM to get U.S. currency. Please note that there may be additional fees from your home country's bank for changing currency. 

You should plan to arrive with enough money to assist you during your first few weeks in the United States. These expenses could include things such as hotels, food, registration fees, and other housing costs. Until you are living in a dormitory, house, or apartment, you should expect to spend from $20- $40 per day for meals at moderately priced restaurants and from $100-$400 per night for off-campus accommodations. 
NOTE: If you will be paid a salary from UW-Madison, you will not receive your first paycheck until the beginning of the second month of employment. It is especially important that you bring enough money for all start up costs as well as your living expenses for the first month. Please consult with your department payroll person regarding your salary and benefits.

Bringing Money to the U.S. from Abroad
All U.S. paper money is the same size and color. Denominations are $1, $5, $10, $20, $50 or $100. U.S. currency is based on a decimal system, with 100 cents per dollar. Many small, local shops do not always accept $100 bills, and sometimes they do not accept $50 bills. It is best to have a mixture of $1, $5, $10, and $20 bills when paying for smaller expenses. 
Do not bring large sums of cash! There are many safer options available, these include: traveler’s checks, electronic banking/ATMs/check cards, international credit cards, bank checks/crafts, debit cards and wire transfers.
Please contact your bank for details.

Banking in the U.S.
Many of you will wish to establish a U.S. bank account. Before you open an account, be sure to do some preliminary research to compare services and fees. There are many different local banks and credit unions conveniently located near the Madison campus. We suggest searching the internet to find the locations of local banks and credit unions.
There are two basic kinds of accounts which you should discuss with the banking institution:
  • Checking accounts.
  • Savings accounts
To avoid delays and cash-flow problems, you may want to open an account in a bank with a branch in the U.S. This would avoid long delays (4-8 weeks) required to process a check issued in a foreign currency from a foreign bank. It is very important for you to be familiar with your government’s regulations for transferring funds to the U.S. You should also check with your bank in your home country regarding fees charged for transferring funds to the U.S.

International Tax and Treaty
If you are going to receive a University of Wisconsin-Madison salary with benefits during your stay on the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program, the length of your program may have an impact on your international tax treaty, if your country has one.
All foreign national employees being paid or receiving funds through UW-Madison payroll must create and maintain a GLACIER record for payroll and taxation purposes. GLACIER is tax compliance software for international individuals on UW payroll. Once your UW department has entered your appointment information into the Human Resources System (HRS) and they have noted your record as a foreign national, a GLACIER account will be created for you. You must then log into your GLACIER account and enter in your non-immigrant information and history.
Once you arrive at UW-Madison, if you have questions regarding your GLACIER account, please contact the international tax team at glacier@ohr.wisc.edu.
If you receive a UW-Madison salary, or any salary from a U.S. source, you will be required to file yearly taxes with the federal Internal Revenue Service and the State of Wisconsin. Although the UW does not have a tax filing office that can assist or advise you on how to file, here is information on where to find forms and other areas of assistance. 

Orientations and Welcome Sessions
IFSS offers a mandatory bi-weekly welcome/orientation session for new visiting J-1 Scholars. Family members are also welcome to attend. The meeting lasts approximately 1.5 hours and covers basic information about the J-1 program and its requirements, access to campus services, background about the local community and a variety of community programs, and services of interest to many scholars.
The orientation sessions are held at 21 N. Park Street. You will be signed up for the next available orientation session upon registering using the "Submit Arrival Documentation" function in Terra Dotta.
E-mail Ischolars@ohr.wisc.edu or call IFSS at 1608-265-2257 if you have any questions or need to change the date of your orientation session.

It is recommended that you allow a week or so to find housing before your program begins. Many apartments within walking distance of campus cater to students and adults without children, and are rented far in advance by students. Many more housing options are available further away from campus. Parking in the campus area is very limited, but the public transportation system in Madison is reliable. There are also many bicycle routes throughout the city.
UW–Madison offers accommodations for visitors. They range from residence hall-like to comparable to a fine boutique hotel. Visit this link for more information: http://info.wisc.edu/plan-your- visit/where-to-stay/
University Apartments are available to some international visitors through Campus Housing. Visit this link for more information: http://www.housing.wisc.edu/apartments.htm

Private Housing
If you plan to live in privately owned apartments you may want to visit the Visitor and Information Program’s (VIP) website for a listing of local apartments for rent as well as answers to frequently asked questions about the housing situation in Madison. http://vip.wisc.edu/
Some apartments are available with furniture; others are rented unfurnished. Be careful to check whether or not the rent includes heat and/or utilities. You will probably be required to pay one month’s rent in advance and another month’s rent as a security deposit. To finalize the renting process, you will be required to sign a lease. A lease is a contract which outlines all the terms and conditions for which you, as a renter, are responsible. Be sure you understand what your lease says; you are legally responsible to observe all the terms of the lease once you have signed your name to it. If you are unclear about any aspect of the terminology in the lease, ask someone else to read it before signing. Lastly, do not sign a lease until you have seen the apartment in person.

Temporary Housing
Temporary housing (1-3 days) for new international scholars is offered, when available, by “Madison Friends of International Students” (MFIS) and Madison area volunteers. If you contact MFIS please include your name, address, arrival date, and gender. Their office is located in the International Student Services (ISS) Office on campus at 217 Red Gym. Contact MFIS, Inc., preferably at least 6 weeks in advance, at 217 Red Gym, 716 Langdon Dr., Madison, WI 53706; phone: 608-263-4010; fax: 608-262- 2838; e-mail: info@mfismadison.org; website: http://www.iss.wisc.edu/mfis/
The office is staffed by volunteers between 10:00 a.m. - 12 noon, Monday through Friday. When the office is not staffed, volunteers continue to check e-mail and voice mail and they will get back to you as soon as possible.

Please be aware of email and phone scams. Refer to the links below for helpful resources to protect your identity and information: 
  • https://www.usa.gov/housing-scams#item-211837
  • https://www.usa.gov/identity-theft
  • https://oig.ssa.gov/newsroom/scam-awareness
  • https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog
  • https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/pass-it-on/imposter-scams
  • https://youtu.be/i4nCy6Xs6R8
If you are ever a victim of a scam, please contact IFSS for assistance. 

Cultural Adjustment 101
You may experience a mix of emotions as you prepare for this new chapter of your life. Many international scholars report being excited, anxious, happy and sad all at the same time. This mixture of emotions is normal, especially if you are coming to the United States for the first time. Remember to be patient with yourself and give yourself time to adjust to the United States.
Coming to a new country, you may experience the Four Stages of Cultural Adjustment referred to as the 4- H’s (Honeymoon, Hostility, Humor and Home). Most people experience these stages to some degree.
When you first arrive in the U.S., you may experience the Honeymoon stage, the initial stage of cultural adjustment. During the Honeymoon stage, everything you experience and discover may feel new and exciting. You may be very enthusiastic about everything you encounter and everyone you meet.
Next, you may experience the Hostility stage. This is the period when you realize that there are many new challenges and barriers to overcome. For example, you may not always understand things such as local culture and jokes, and you may experience language barriers that feel frustrating and draining.
Next comes the Humor stage. This is the stage when you begin to learn to overcome the challenges and barriers you have encountered. During the Humor stage, mistakes do not bother you as much. In fact, you may find that you can actually laugh at them!
The final stage is the Home stage. This is the point when you feel at home in your new environment. Remember that not all people experience all of the Four Stages of Cultural Adjustment and that they might not follow in the order discussed. Stay busy and surround yourself with positive people. Remember to talk often with friends, family and UW staff to work through challenges. Let the journey begin!
Pack the essentials!
You may be wondering what to pack and how to fit everything into your suitcase. Madison has four distinct seasons:
Spring: March 1 – May 31 Cold to mild weather. Lots of rain and occasional snow. Rain gear and layers recommended.
Summer: June 1 – August 31Mild to very warm and humid weather. Rain and thunderstorms possible. Abundant sunshine. Light layers and sun protection recommended. Also bring gear for outdoor activities like swimming and hiking.
Fall: September 1 – November 30 Warm/Mild to cold weather. Sun and rain possible with occasional snow. Very windy at times. Light to heavy layers with warm jackets and rain gear. Prepare for possible very cold temperatures or snow.
Winter: December 1 – February 28 Cold to freezing weather. Lots of snow and blizzards possible. Ice storms and rain as well. Heavy layers, coats, water proof snow boots, gloves/mittens, and hats.
Don’t forget to pack your cultural attire and items from home too! There are several events on campus that celebrate Cultural diversity in which you may want to participate.
Call home often through CellularLD.
CellularL D is a prepaid long distance provider that allows you to call home internationally through a cellular phone or landline anywhere in the US at very low prices. http://www.cellularld.com/