Skip to content

Other ways to search: Events Calendar | UTHSC News

Pre-Arrival Information for Research Scholars, Faculty and Staff

Report to Office of International Affairs upon Arrival

As soon as possible after your arrival at UT Health Science Center, you should make an appointment to come to the Office of International Affairs to check in by calling 448-8484; we are located inside the One Stop Shop, 910 Madison, Suite 105. Please bring your passport and visa documents with you to our office.

Visa Information

In order to enter the United States, you need to obtain a visa (Canadian citizens are visa exempt).

J-1: If you have been issued a DS-2019 form for J-1 status, please read carefully page 2 of the DS-2019 form and sign the Exchange Visitor Certification at the bottom of page 1 in BLUE ink; then read this information carefully. If you have been issued DS-2019s for dependents accompanying you, you must also sign their forms. You must pay the SEVIS fee and obtain a receipt to bring with you to your visa interview for a J visa. You may be subject to the 2-year home residence requirement in connection with your J-1 status if:

  • your field of study appears on your country's skills list, or,
  • you have received funding from either the U.S. government or your own government to pay for your travel or stay in the U.S.

Before you make travel plans, check with the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate for application procedures and for how long it will take to receive a visa. Time and cost for the visa will vary from country to country.

Normally you must present the following documents to obtain a visa:

  1. Passport
  2. Visa document from UT Health Science Center (Form DS-2019 or USCIS approval notice)
  3. Documentation of financial support or employment, such as a bank statement or job offer letter from UTHSC.
  4. Evidence of your intent to return to your home country upon completion of your program in the U.S. (for J visas only)

(Depending on the Consulate, you may be required to submit additional documents.)

Do not attempt to enter the U.S. on a visitor's/tourist visa (B-1 /B-2, WB or WT). On a visitor's/tourist visa you may not work or be compensated by any U.S. source.

Special Information for Canadians

You do not have to get a visa, but make sure you stop at the border and present your visa document to the U.S. Immigration Authorities. Do not let the Immigration officer just wave you through. You MUST obtain a passport stamp indicating your immigration status. You must present your SEVIS fee receipt if you will be a J-1 Exchange Visitor.


As soon as you find out the date and time of your arrival, notify your department sponsor.

Plan your arrival date so you can rest for a few days, find housing, and meet with your department sponsor. If you have not arranged for housing before you arrive, you may search for a hotel close to UTHSC.

For information on housing close to UTHSC, check with your UTHSC department for advice. Additional information on off-campus housing can also be found here.

Memphis is in the southwest corner of the state of Tennessee and is easily accessible by car, bus or plane. You can take the bus or fly into Memphis from almost any city in the U.S.


Upon arrival at a U.S. port of entry, you will be asked to show your passport, visa (which is in your passport), SEVIS fee receipt (if J-1), and visa document. You may also be requested to produce your financial documents for inspection. Make sure to carry all this information on your person, and not in your checked baggage, since you will not get your baggage until after the immigration inspection. Once you have been admitted to the U.S., your passport will be stamped with your immigration status. Be prepared and watch a video of the admission process. 

I-94 Record: Your I-94 Record documents your arrival date, port of entry, your visa status and the duration of your stay.  Some U.S. government agencies will want to see a printout of your I-94 Record, which you can locate and print here:

See more information on Immigration Category Overview about how to locate your I-94 Record information.


Important Information for J Visa Holders:

If, for some reason, your immigration documents are not in order when you arrive, the Immigration Inspector may give you a form called I-515 to defer your inspection until later. If this happens, it is VERY IMPORTANT that you come to International Affairs immediately upon arriving on campus!


Once you have gone through the immigration inspection at the U.S. port of entry, you must pass through Customs. You will be asked to declare what you have brought into the country. Usually you will have filled out a declaration form on the plane and will make a verbal statement to the official, who may or may not inspect your baggage. There may be dogs sniffing for illegal drugs or food as well. If you do arrive in the U.S. with drugs prescribed for you by a physician, have the prescription readily available.

You may bring anything for your personal use without paying duty, including clothing and jewelry. A total of $200 worth of gifts may be brought in duty-free every six months. Any value over $200 will be assessed duty. Any amount of money may be brought into or taken out of the U.S. You must, however, make an accurate determination of the amount you are carrying upon your arrival. If you are carrying over $10,000 in any form of currency or other negotiables on your person, you must declare it when you fill out the customs declaration form on the plane. No duty will be assessed.

Certain articles may not be brought into the U.S., including meats, vegetables, fruits, plants, drugs without a doctor's prescription, articles made of endangered species, pornographic materials and firearms. Food items that are canned or hermetically sealed are usually acceptable. For more information on U.S. Customs, visit U.S Customs and Border Protection's website. 

What to Bring

Clothing: Because of the seasonal variation in the climate, it is important to bring a variety of lightweight, and also some heavyweight winter, clothing. Summer in Memphis is usually hot and humid and the temperature ranges from 90-100°F (32-38°C) in August to 20-30°F (-6 to -1°C) in February. Winters are usually mild, even though an occasional ice or snow storm may occur.

There is no official dress code at UT Health Science Center. Many men and women choose to wear jeans and T-shirts. You should bring at least one formal outfit for interviews and formal occasions.

If you wear glasses or contacts, you may wish to bring an extra pair in case they are lost or broken. IF YOU TAKE A SPECIAL MEDICATION, BRING EXTRA AS WELL AS THE PRESCRIPTION.

Also, since dental and vision care is not included in most health insurance plans in the U.S., it is a good idea to get a dental check-up and any new glasses prior to coming to the U.S.

What Not to Bring

Voltage in the U.S. is 110V which is different from other countries. Electrical items such as hair dryers, shavers, etc., brought from home will need an adapter. The items function best if you wait and buy them in the U.S.

Health and Insurance

Note: this insurance information is for J visa holders, but those coming to UT Health Science Center on other visa types are advised to carry health insurance that conforms to these requirements as well if not covered by UTHSC Postdoc, CGHS student or employee insurance.

Health care in the U.S. is extremely expensive, and if your insurance plan requires you to pay the bill yourself and then get reimbursement, you may not be able to afford medical treatment. Medical providers in the U.S. often require proof that they will be paid by an insurance company before treatment is begun. Therefore, it is also important that your insurance company have a customer service telephone number in the U.S. for physicians and hospitals to inquire about your policy.

The U.S. government requires that all foreign nationals on a J-1 visa and their dependents have health and accident insurance as well as medical evacuation and repatriation insurance. You and your dependents are compelled to participate in an insurance program for illness and accidents for the total period of time that you are in the United States. The insurance policy should be underwritten by a United States state-chartered corporation having an A.M. Best policyholder rating of "A" or above.*

Minimum coverage should include:

    • Medical benefits of $100,000 per accident or illness;
    • Repatriation of remains in the amount of $25,000; and
    • Medical Evacuation to your home country in the amount of $50,000
    • Deductibles not to exceed $500 per accident or illness

The policy may:

    • Require a waiting period for pre-existing conditions which is reasonable by current insurance industry standards;
    • Include provisions for co-insurance, which require payment of up to 25% of the covered benefits per accident or illness. It will not unreasonably exclude coverage for perils inherent to the activities of the exchange program in which you participate.

* Insurance coverage backed by the full faith and credit of the government of the exchange visitor's home country shall be deemed to meet this requirement.

Also see health insurance information.

If you do have insurance from your home country, you need to submit proof in English from the insurance company that you have the required coverage and the dates of coverage.

You will not be allowed to participate in any program at UT Health Science Center if you and your dependents do not have the required insurance coverage. Please plan on purchasing insurance coverage right after your arrival if you do not already have insurance at that time.

Driving in the U.S.

If you plan on driving a car while in the U.S., you must have a driver license. You may legally drive in the U.S. with an International Driver License for no more than ninety (90) days. Thus, it is wise to obtain a Tennessee Temporary Driver License (issued to all non-citizens and non-permanent residents) as soon as possible. You need to bring your passport and I-94 Record printout to the Testing Center to apply for a license. It is against the law in Tennessee to drive a car without auto liability insurance. An insurance agent can tell you the minimum limits of coverage.

Money Matters

Living, working and/or studying in the U.S. is often more expensive than most foreign nationals think it is. Be sure that your finances are in order before departing for the U.S. and that you have sufficient funds to cover all your expenses for at least one year if you are coming to study and at least two months if you have an annual stipend of $18,500 or more.

Please be aware that you will not get your first paycheck until the end of the month. It is important that you have sufficient funds to pay for insurance, rent, phone service, utilities, food, and other necessities for your first month here. We estimate that $5,000 would be sufficient, but this amount should be increased if you are bringing your spouse and/or children with you.

Never keep large amounts of money on you while walking around Memphis. Plan on opening a bank account immediately upon arrival. There are several banks in the Memphis area. It is possible for you to open both checking and savings accounts at any of the banks in town. You can wire your money from your bank at home to an account in a Memphis bank. However, be aware that this procedure may take from three to five weeks to complete and costs extra.


With a metropolitan population of close to a million, it is the largest city in Tennessee, located on the Mississippi River, home of Elvis Presley, Federal Express, and the NBA Grizzlies. Memphis offers many cultural activities including theaters, art galleries, museums, music center and performing arts center, a symphony orchestra, opera, etc. It has seven institutions of higher education other than the University of Tennessee, including a community college, a technical institute and a religious seminary.

For more information on Memphis for newcomers, click here: Memphis Information

Employment Regulations

J-1 Scholars may engage in full-time work that is strictly related to the purpose of their coming to the United States and only on the campus of the sponsor.

H-1B, TN and O-1 visa holders may only work at UTHSC in the position for which a visa document was issued.

Social Security Number

All paid employment and the opening of some bank accounts require a Social Security number. You must apply for a Social Security number in person and bring with you your passport, I-94 Record printout, and visa documents (DS-2019 form or USCIS approval notice). The closest Social Security Administration office to UT Health Science Center is at 1330 Monroe Avenue and is open 9 a.m. to 3 p.m.weekdays, although only 9am to noon on Wednesdays.

J-1 visa holders should come to International Affairs to validate their SEVIS record before applying for a Social Security number.

Federal and State Taxes

Everyone, including foreign nationals who earn income in the United States, must file the appropriate Federal Income Tax forms. Tennessee does not have a state income tax.

Cultural Adjustment

Studying and/or working in a foreign culture can be a rewarding and an exciting experience. It can also be difficult at times. Preparing yourself for a new and challenging intercultural experience takes much strength and courage. With an open mind, sense of humor, patience and curiosity, you will come to understand why Americans behave the way they do, and you will gain new insight into your own culture and behavior as well. The willingness to experiment, the reluctance to condemn, and the ability to laugh at oneself and at what seems absurd will certainly make your time in the U.S. a rich and worthwhile experience.

Be prepared for the condition known as "culture shock" after your arrival in the U.S. It may occur soon after your stay begins or it may occur some months later, but realize that when you start feeling down and maybe criticizing everything and everyone American, it is very likely culture shock. It is a common condition when moving to a new culture, and it helps to realize almost everyone from abroad has gone through it at some time and that you will get over it as you adjust to life here.


J-2 dependents may work in the U.S. after applying for and receiving work authorization from the Immigration Service. Do be aware that Immigration processing times can be lengthy, and your spouse will not be able to apply until after you have both arrived in the U.S.

H-4, TD and O-3 dependents may NOT work in the U.S. unless they obtain a position for which a separate work visa can be issued for them.

Other relatives (parents, siblings, etc.) may come to the U.S. on a tourist visa (WT or B-2) to visit you but will not be considered your dependents. B-2 visa status is usually valid for 6 months; WT status for 3 months.

Children entering kindergarten and those entering the first grade who are new to the Shelby County Schools must present the following documents in order to register:

  • birth certificate
  • proof of recent medical examination (within the last 12 months) in English
  • Tennessee Department of Health Immunization Certificate
  • 2 proofs of parent's/legal guardian's residence (utility bill, lease agreement, etc.)

For school registration information, please see the Shelby County Schools registration website.

Children are usually assigned to the school closest to their home, so you might want to consider this fact when choosing a place to live. Ask your department for advice.  In addition, there are several private schools in the Memphis area.


When you are traveling to the U.S., please carry the following documents on your person (not in your checked luggage):

  • Visa Document (DS-2019 or USCIS approval notice)
  • SEVIS fee receipt
  • Passport with valid visa
  • Arrival Information (address, phone numbers, etc.)
  • Cash, travelers checks, credit cards

As soon as possible after your arrival at UT Health Science Center, please call to make an appointment to come to the OIA (901-448-8484). Bring with you your passport, any visa documents issued to you (DS-2019, USCIS approval notice) and verification of insurance coverage for yourself and any dependents if you are a J-1 visa holder.

We wish you a pleasant journey to Memphis and look forward to seeing you!

May 26, 2022