Arriving at UTEP
Once you obtain your F-1/J-1 visa, you may use it to enter the U.S. up to 30 days before to the "Program Start Date" on your I-20 or DS-2019. If you are already in the U.S. in F-1/J-1 status, you can arrive on campus at a time that is convenient to you.
Plan to arrive in El Paso, Texas before the first day of classes, and check with your academic department to see if you need to arrive earlier.
Students in the U.S. usually wear casual clothes, such as blue jeans, shorts, t-shirts, sandals, and tennis shoes. 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 drop as low as 1-2° C during the winter. You should bring or plan to buy a winter jacket. We also suggest you bring a few traditional forms of dress and some handcrafts or other small items from your home country.
If you plan on living in on-campus housing, you can see a guide of suggested items to bring or buy here. The list is also helpful even if you plan to live off-campus.
When you fly into the U.S., a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will ask for your passport, F-1/J-1 visa, and I-20/DS-2019. If you have another valid visa, make sure the officer knows you are applying for admission in the F-1/J-1 category. If you enter in another status, such as a tourist with a B-1/B-2 visa, you will have to exit the U.S. and re-enter in F-1/J-1 status before you can begin your program at UTEP.
Be sure to keep all of your documents with you-- do not pack them away or keep them in checked baggage. The officer may also ask to see your financial documents and/or admission letter. If there are any questions about your documents or intent, the officer will send you to secondary inspection which will involve additional questioning and wait time.
Once you are admitted, the CBP officer will create an electronic record of your entry, called the I-94. This is an important status document that you can obtain at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov by entering your passport information. You should check your I-94 soon after you enter the U.S. to make sure there are no errors. The record should state the correct status (F-1/J-1), entry date, and show your status valid through "D/S" (Duration of Status).
Completing the immigration and customs procedures does not usually take a long time, but it's best to allow two to three hours for processing in case there are any delays. While in the airport, be extremely cautious and do not trust anyone with your luggage or personal items. You can take a taxi, Uber, or Lyft from the airport to reach campus. Make sure you are getting into the correct vehicle. There are public phones for your use next to the Ground Transportation Counter by baggage claim if needed.
When you drive into the U.S., a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will ask for your passport, F-1/J-1 visa, and I-20/DS-2019. If you have another valid visa, make sure the officer knows you are applying for admission in the F-1/J-1 category. If you enter in another status, such as a tourist with a B-1/B-2 visa, you will have to exit the U.S. and re-enter in F-1/J-1 status before you can begin your program at UTEP.
Be sure to keep all of your documents with you-- do not pack them away. The officer may also ask to see your financial documents and/or admission letter. If there are any questions about your documents or intent, the officer will send you to secondary inspection which will involve additional questioning and wait time.
Once you are admitted, the CBP officer will create a paper record of your entry, called the I-94. This is an important status document that is issued on a small white card and stapled into your passport. You should check your I-94 soon after you enter the U.S. to make sure there are no errors. The record should state the correct status (F-1/J-1), entry date, and show your status valid through "D/S" (Duration of Status).
If you re-enter through a land border and already have a paper I-94 in your passport, the CBP officer generally will not issue you a new one. You can see a summary of your entries and exits at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov. However, the information found at that website is often incomplete, so it may not include all of your records.
Once you arrive in the U.S., you may set up a U.S. bank account by presenting your passport, I-20/DS-2019, and UTEP ID card at the bank. You should check with the specific bank for additional requirements. There are Automated Teller Machines (ATMs) that dispense cash located on campus and throughout El Paso. We suggest bringing enough money to cover your stay for at least two weeks in order to establish yourself and in case you encounter any unforeseen issues.
We recommend that you do not carry large amounts of cash at any time. Most retailers in the U.S. accept credit/debit cards. Traveler’s checks in U.S. dollars issued by most banks in your home country may be accepted as well.
Cell phones can be purchased at local vendors and activated on prepaid, month-to-month, or contract plans. Check with your home country service provider before you leave to determine the best option for service in the U.S.
Wi-Fi is available for your phone and computer on-campus by logging into "UTEP Secure" with your UTEP username and password. You can find more information here.
To make a call within the U.S. to another U.S. number, dial the 3-digit area code (915 for El Paso), and then the 7-digit local phone number. For example, the number to call the Office of International Programs is 915-747-5664.
Before OIP can register your record in SEVIS, you must report your arrival. Most students will do this through Sunapsis using the "Immigration Intake" form, but some will be provided a paper "Arrival Check In" form to complete. The form must be submitted with copies of your passport, visa, I-94, and I-20/DS-2019 that you have signed.
- Students who are already in the U.S. in F-1/J-1 status should report their arrival to OIP up to 30 days before the program start date, and before the first day of classes.
- Students who are arriving from abroad on an F-1/J-1 visa should report their arrival to OIP within 15 days of entering the U.S., and before the first day of classes.
Once you report your arrival, we will register your SEVIS record and issue a new I-20/DS-2019 that shows you have properly reported. You should immediately pick up the new "Continued Attendance" I-20/DS-2019 from our office as evidence that you are maintaining status.
Do not continue to re-enter the U.S. using an "Initial" or "Transfer" I-20/DS-2019 as you may be refused admission. Keep all previous I-20s/DS-2019s in a safe place for your records.
All new/transfer students are required to attend International Student Orientation, which is separate from New Student Orientation. We will send out emails and reminders before the semester begins with information on registering.
F-1/J-1 international students and scholars may not work ANYWHERE, AT ANY TIME without first receiving an authorization or recommendation from OIP. There are several options available to work, including on-campus employment, Curricular Practical Training (CPT), Academic Training (AT), and Optional Practical Training (OPT). Work options will be discussed at International Student Orientation.
Graduate students with a Teaching/Research Assistant offer should arrive on campus and submit their Arrival Check-In as early as possible to submit UTEP Human Resources (HR) paperwork and apply for a Social Security Number, if required.
Your tuition and fees must be paid by the deadlines established by Student Business Services (SBS), located in the Mike Loya building. OIP does not collect tuition or fees, so all questions regarding tuition should be directed to SBS.
Failure to pay tuition and fees will result in being dropped from your classes. This means you are not maintaining your F-1/J-1 immigration status, and your SEVIS record will be terminated. If you anticipate any problems paying tuition on time for any semester, contact SBS to evaluate your options.
If you will be a Teaching/Research Assistant, your paycheck will not be issued until a month from the date you start working. Therefore, bring enough money to cover your initial expenses.