Enter Your Photos For a Chance to Win a Prize! #UTWintergram


Are you traveling over the Winter Break? Are you staying in Austin? Either way, we want to see your photos! Enter the ISSS Wintergram contest from December 19 to January 19 for a chance to win prizes from the International Office. Simply post winter break photos to Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram and tag #UTWintergram to be entered into the drawing to win. We can’t wait to see snap shots from your time off!

Posted in General

Are you Traveling Internationally for Winter Break?

Review Your I-20 or DS-2019

Don’t forget to check your I-20/DS-2019 for a valid travel signature:

Look at page 3 of the I-20 (F-1 students) or page 1 of the DS-2019 (J-1 students/scholars) and check the date that the document was last signed for travel by an immigration advisor. If the signature will be more than 12 months old by the date that you plan to re-enter the U.S., please stop by ISSS to have your I-20/DS-2019 signed before you leave. If you are on OPT, please note that your travel signature is only valid for 6 months, and you will need to renew it accordingly.

F-1 or J-1 students should visit our office during the posted advising hours for a travel signature (no appointment required). Scholars and sponsored students should make an appointment with their advisor for a travel signature.

We recommend that you get a new travel signature and carry your immigration documents with you even if you travel within the U.S., especially anywhere near the border, such as South Padre, Big Bend, South Texas, or Galveston. You could be stopped at an immigration checkpoint within the US!

Need to Renew Your Visa?

If the visa stamp in your passport has expired you may need to renew your visa if you travel abroad. Please see an advisor if you have any questions about renewing your visa. You can also review our visa handout online.

Traveling to Mexico, Canada, or the Caribbean with an Expired Visa? Use Automatic Visa Revalidation (AVR)

If you plan to travel to any of the countries listed below and have an expired U.S. visa, you might consider automatic visa revalidation (AVR). Please see our travel advisory for further details.



Saint Pierre


Dominican Republic



The Bahamas



The Windward and Leeward Islands



Other British, French or Netherlands territories or possessions in, or bordering the Caribbean Sea.

Traveling abroad while on OPT or Academic Training?

The following are the documents you will need to take with you:

Passport valid for at least 6 months from the date of entry

Valid U.S. visa (except for Canadians)

I-20/DS-2019 signed by an Immigration Advisor within the past 6 months

Valid EAD (Employment Authorization Document, also known as ‘work card’ or ‘OPT card’) or Academic Training authorization letter

Verification of employment or offer letter to start employment shortly after re-entry to the U.S.

Additional Travel Considerations

As you prepare for your travel, read our Using Health Insurance During Winter Break.


Posted in Immigration Updates

Reminder: Upcoming Insurance Deadlines 2/3/15

Purchase or Renew Dependent Insurance for Spring

International students are automatically billed for health insurance coverage.  But don’t forget to add your dependents to your student health insurance plan!  Spouses and children must be re-enrolled in coverage each semester (Fall, Spring, and Summer).  For Spring coverage, the deadline to add dependents is February 3rd.  Dependents can be enrolled by scheduling an appointment with the ISSS Insurance Advisor.

Spring and Summer Insurance Waivers

February 3rd is the deadline to apply for spring insurance waivers, including GRAs and TAs with  UT Select staff insurance.  Review eligibility categories, waiver periods, required documentation, and submission deadlines on the ISSS Insurance Webpage.

Purchase Continuation Coverage

Students/scholars graduating or leaving UT can purchase an extension of their student health insurance plan for up to 6 months.   Note that you must have been covered by the student health insurance plan for at least 6 months to be eligible for this extension.  Purchase this coverage by scheduling an appointment with the ISSS Insurance Advisor by the deadline of February 3rd.


Posted in General

Holiday Tips & Treats

Happy IO Holidays!

Tis the season to be merry and jolly, happy and light! At the International Office, we want you to have safe and relaxing holidays, whether you are staying here in Austin, or traveling to your home destination. We’ve put together a list of holiday tips and treats to make your holidays bright:

Holiday Tips from the International Office:

  • Friday, December 19: The last day the IO is open before everyone leaves for winter break! Meet with your advisor, get your travel signature or documents, or take care of any program extensions before this date!
  • Stay healthy during the holiday season: University Health Services has resources for staying well. More to come on this!
  • International Travel: Make sure you have your documents, including a copy of your passport and other important information just in case something happens.
  • Be prepared: Airports and train stations can be full of germs, so take your hand sanitizer, tissues, and bottle of water to stay clean and hydrated while you travel!

Holiday Treats from the International Office:

  • Join the #UTWintergram contest to win some goodies from the IO! Just Tweet or Instagram your holiday photos and tag the @WorldatUT to show us where you’re going and all the fun you’re having!
  • Go to community events in Austin: Click here, here, or here for different ideas and activities you can participate in over the holidays! I know we’re all excited for the Austin Trail of Lights!
  • Cook a meal for your American friends or do a holiday traditions exchange.
  • Enjoy your down time and get something warm to drink at a local coffeehouse.
  • Relax! 2015 will be here before you know it!


Happy Holidays and safe travels!

-UT Austin International Office Staff

Posted in General

Timing and U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident Status

With conflicting information online, when do I speak with my employer about obtaining my “green card“?

Well, it depends…

While every student’s case differs, on campus, we often recommend speaking with your employer about applying for a green card after you have H-1B nonimmigrant visa status. H-1B visa status differs from J-1 or F-1 in two ways: 1) H-1B allows you to work for up to six years, and 2) it permits dual intent. Dual intent essentially means that an I-140 Immigrant petition should not complicate your future visa applications while traveling abroad.

Your employer will usually file the I-140 immigrant petition on your behalf, ideally by your 4th year in H-1B status. Your work as an H-1B employee, your education, and where you were born are factors to consider in deciding your best option for seeking U.S. Lawful Permanent Resident (“LPR”) status through employment. Your H-1B employer may have specific company policies, too.

Find out what resources you have at work. Many H-1B employers will have people on staff to give you legal advice on immigration. Ask good questions and listen.

Some employment-based LPR filing strategies require a job market test through the U.S. Department of Labor. If you are a university teacher, you may have an option called ‘Special Handling’ that might increase your changes of being given a green card. In order to do this, however, take action quickly; you have to file with the Department of Labor within 18 months of the offer letter date.

You can consider self-filing an I-140 Immigrant petition, but consider first if you can complete the process and file an I-485 application without too long a wait; check out current and prior U.S. visa bulletins to get a better sense of how long your application will take to process. For instance, employment-based first preference (“EB-1”) petitions like an Outstanding Professor or an Extraordinary Ability have currently available visas, as shown by a “C” on the visa bulletin, which makes them a preferred filing strategy for those who qualify. Many do not, especially right after graduation – but again, it depends… so best of luck!

Posted in General, Immigration Updates

International Voices: Dealing with Homesickness

This post is a part of our weekly International Voices column, writing by UT students, for UT students. Enjoy!

In the midst of hubbub of Friday night parties, do you often feel that you do not belong to this place? Do you miss being in your favorite places back in your country? Have you been constantly thinking of just going home this very instant? Then you, my friend, are feeling what we call “homesickness.”  I always think homesickness is a misnomer, considering the fact that missing home can never be a sickness.  However, as it says, “when you are in Rome do as the Romans do”, we will call homesickness as homesickness.

Nabiul Afrooz

Nabiul Afrooz

If it is of any comfort, let me tell you that you are not alone in your ordeal.  I left “Home” when I was 6 years old. Even then, as an international student away from my country, I experienced this torment, intensely. Now, I won’t bore you with the explicit details of my own circumstance. Instead, I will be giving some tips and suggestions on how to cope up and perhaps overcome this trouble.

First, the most common approach is simply keeping in touch. Nothing beats the “good old” voice and face of loved ones. Though it is far from being personally there, it’s the next best thing that could be.  Social networking could be a blessing in this regard.  Thanks to technology, we can now get messages instantly rather than waiting for days to get the mail.  Even better, sometimes it’s a live news feed on what’s “currently up” with your friends and family. Seeing their images and hearing them talk is just like having your piece of home right then and there with you.

Another thing that you can do is to keep busy. You may have already noticed that when you are idle, homesickness is at its peak. It’s during those times when you are bored and doing nothing that your mind tends to wander off back to your home. So do something! And that does not include staring at the wall or daydreaming. If you’re in school, I am sure you know that it’s not all rainbows and butterflies. There are literally tons of things to do. There are requirements, projects, assignments and a whole lot of other scholastic stuff that can eat your time. If you’re not interested in academic stuff, you can also do sports or go out or discover a new hobby. Who knows, you might discover and even succeed on a new endeavor that you are about to undertake. It does not matter what you do, as long as you are occupied and the stuff you are doing is constructive.

Last and probably the best suggestion that I could offer is to create a new home. Obviously, I don’t  suggest you to  replace your old home: “sweet home”.  After all, there is no place like “home”. I’m suggesting, that you make and create an atmosphere that “almost” feels like home. Socialize, meet new friends, and create a strong bond with them. If you want, you could even call them a family. It’s not a replacement; it’s an extension. Make yourself at home in your new environment. Explore and be familiar with your surroundings. Welcome the change and appreciate your new place’s distinctiveness and exquisiteness in order to extend and diversify your “home”.

And that was how I got through feeling homesick. I am not sure if these suggestions will work for everybody. Every individual is unique and has his/her own way of coping. But these sure helped me a lot over the years, and I hope it would do the same to you.

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Posted in International Voices

Pre-Thanksgiving Healthy Eating Tips

CornucopiaWhile Thanksgiving may not be the healthiest eating day of the year, it is a good reminder of our close relationship with food!  As a student, it’s easy to forget how much eating habits can affect mood, performance, and overall health.  Here are a few tips for positive, mindful eating:

  1. Develop good eating habits. Positive habits are essential to maintaining a healthy diet.
  2. Try eating at a slower pace, which gives your stomach time to inform your brain that you’re full.
  3. Don’t skip meals, which puts you at risk for a slowing metabolism.
  4. Snacking is a huge culprit. Try some of these healthier snack alternatives.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Posted in General

Advising Schedule for the End of the Fall 2014 Semester

The International Office will be closed in observance of Thanksgiving November 27 and 28, 2014 and also December 22, 2014 through January 1, 2015 for the winter holiday.

If your I-20 or DS-2019 expires on December 31, 2014 and you plan to continue your program after the fall 2014 semester, the last day to extend your I-20 or DS-2019 is December 19, 2014. Appointments in December will fill up quickly, so we recommend planning your extension appointment in advance! If you have difficulties making an appointment, please email hotline@austin.utexas.edu. Don’t let your I-20 or DS-2019 expire before you complete your program of study! F-1 students and J-1 students should review the information on our website and prepare the necessary documents before their program extension appointment.

Please plan ahead for other time sensitive applications, too. If you are requesting CPT to start early in the spring 2015 semester, or you are applying for OPT based on fall graduation, you may wish to meet with an advisor before our office is closed in December.

Posted in General, Immigration Updates

International Voices: Co-op Living

This post is a part of our weekly International Voices column, writing by UT students, for UT students. Enjoy!

collageI smell reunion. For days and weeks, D-hausers have been plotting and planning, and hopefully a month from now, we will all be flying, busing, or training in to the quaint town of Würzburg in Bavaria to meet up and gossip the weekend away.

What’s a D-hauser, you might ask. A D-hauser is a rare brand of human being who willingly foregoes the cleanliness, janitorial services and general order of apartment or dorm living for the drama and camaraderie that is the co-op experience. D-haus stands for Deutsches Haus and refers to one of the many co-ops on West Campus. It was founded as a boarding house in 1968 by Chuck Schmidt, a professor in the Germanic Studies Department who thought of it as a space where American and international students could meet and learn from each other.

Connie Loos

Connie Loos

In 2011, when I moved into the German House, not much of the immersion spirit was left – back in the day, evening meals were held in German and your application wouldn’t be considered if you couldn’t show at least some proficiency in what Mark Twain lovingly called the “awful German language”. In my day, the application form still asked whether you had any knowledge of German, but a negative answer no longer got your application shredded immediately. Nevertheless, there were seven of us (Germans) in my cohort, in addition to several Americans, a Mexican-American, a Russian girl, and a bunch of grad students from India, Czech Republic, Norway, and Canada.

So what’s so great about co-op living that it warrants such a nostalgic post? Well, it’s pretty much an over-sized but better organised L’Auberge Espagnole! (If you’re an exchange student and you haven’t seen this movie, go do it now. No movie or book describes the excitement and novelty of being an exchange student in your 20s quite like it.) To American students, coops offer affordable living close to campus with the added benefit of getting to know people from all over the world. To an international student, a coop on West campus means a place to arrive and get your bearings after a looong trip, 20 new friends at once, a communal meal per day (cooked by your more or less culinarily skilled house-mates), and a well-stocked fridge – at least on the night the designated house members have gone shopping and the shelves are bulging with family-sized containers of peanut butter, cereal, and sometimes even fruit.

Communities are forged over epic semester parties, exhausting labor days (biannual spring cleanings) and house meetings that resemble parliamentary sessions in both length and inefficiency. With most people sharing a room and everyone sharing three bathrooms, there’s plenty of room for conflict, for petty and not-so-petty grievances. But then you clear the air with a couple of German beers and a game of cards on the porch and bond over your shared outrage at yet another house mate.

Trust me that when the class of 2011 meets in Würzburg this December, we’ll laugh at our petty differences and bond over the shared misery of five-hour meetings, way too many pasta dinners and dishes forever piling up in sinks while spoons go missing. However, we’ll spend much more time remembering the fun we had at movie nights, hanging out on the front porch, a capsized canoe at our mid-February paddling adventure, baking Christmas cookies and roasting Thanksgiving turkeys, and even studying together. So I thank my fellow D-hausers for a very memorable year and wish the next generations at least the fun we had.


For more information on co-ops in Austin, check out:

Intercooperative Council Austin: http://www.iccaustin.coop/

College Houses: http://collegehouses.org/

Deutsches Haus: http://www.dhauscoop.com/


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Posted in International Voices

Upcoming Scholarship Deadlines: Ethel Loving de Diaz, SIAWE, & Griswold I

Every year, ISSS administers a limited number of scholarships available to international students. Don’t miss these upcoming application deadlines:

Monday, December 1st, 2014 (5:00 pm):

  • Ethel Loving de Diaz – Provides $1,500 in spring tuition assistance to an international student from Mexico who is working to help fund their education.
  • SIAWE – $1,000 will be awarded to a student of Iranian descent who demonstrates financial need and academic excellence.

Saturday, January 31st, 2015:

Questions regarding the Ethel Loving de Diaz and SIAWE scholarships should be addressed to Phuoc Bui: p.bui@austin.utexas.edu. Please contact Pan American Round Tables of Texas directly for more information about the Griswold I.

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Posted in Financial Aid, General

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