Life in the US
Helping you make the most of your US experience.
Welcome to the United States! Making a move out of the country is a life-changing event.
You will be living and learning in a completely new environment. Living in a new country is a totally different experience that will introduce you to new traditions, manners and re-adjusting some of your own habits.
While processes and procedures both at the University of Charleston and in the United States in general can seem confusing at first, we are here to help you make the most of your UC experience and navigate life in the U.S.A.
Don’t worry if you find yourself feeling a little overwhelmed as you make the adjustment to life in the United States. Remember that you are not alone, and UC has helped many international students adjust to life in the US.
Our Office of International Programs is available to help. Located on the third floor of the Geary Student Union Building, you can feel free to stop in anytime, or call the office at 304-357-4758.
Want to get involved in UC life? See our Getting Involved – International Programs for ways to celebrate your own culture while on campus.
Health and Immunization Policies (Please see Admissions Policies for International Students here.)
You will need to open a bank account to take care of your financial transactions in a safe and efficient manner. We highly recommend that you make your tuition payments by check, credit card, or money wire transfer. For your safety, DO NOT carry large sums of cash in your wallet, purse, or pocket on or off campus.
If you are interested in opening a bank account in the United States, there are banking options available within a short distance from UC. To open an account, you will need:
- Passport with student visa
- Social Security number (if applicable – it’s ok if you don’t have one)
- Proof of enrollment letter that states your F-1 student status & confirms your U.S. address. (ask for this at the front desk of the Student Leadership and Engagement Office)
NOTE: An ATM machine provided by BB&T is located on the main floor of the Geary Student Union. Also, checks for up to $25 can be cashed at the Student Solutions Center in Riggleman Hall.
ALL international students, regardless of whether or not you have earned money in the previous fiscal year, MUST complete and send in an 8843 tax form. There are NO exceptions. All international students in the USA are required to submit this form. The form and instructions can be found online at www.irs.gov.
Those students who earned money during the fiscal year are required to complete a 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ tax form.
Keep in mind that Charleston does have four seasons – while you are here, the weather can vary from hot summers to snowy winters. Be prepared by bringing appropriate clothing and footwear to campus.
The University of Charleston requires that all freshman and sophomores under the age of 21 (as of the first day of classes for the current academic year) live on-campus. (link to Residence Life)
Holidays and Spring Break
You are permitted to remain on campus over the breaks and holidays; however, you will be charged a nominal fee for your room during the Christmas and summer breaks. Additionally, meals will not be available in the Dining Hall when classes are not in session.
Summer Storage Options
Personal belongings cannot be stored on campus over the summer months. As you make your plans for the summer, you should decide which option for storing your belongings is best for you.
Numerous mini storage units are available throughout Charleston. For availability and cost, you should contact them directly.
We suggest that if you have more than one or two people storing items in a unit that one person keep the key and be responsible for the monthly payment. We also recommend that your boxes be labeled and an inventory be taken for each person who decides to use this option. If you need assistance with transporting your belongings to the storage unit, please contact the Office of Student Life.
If you need to park your car on campus over a break, please coordinate with the Office of Safety and Security or you risk being towed. Any vehicle that is abandoned on UC property will be towed at the owner’s expense.
Many UC students choose to live off campus, and there are many options around Charleston. If you are eligible and choose to live off-campus, please check with the Student Solutions Office to make sure that this will not affect your scholarship.
Keep in mind that Charleston does have snow days during the winter, so if you are not used to driving in the snow, you may want to consider staying on campus.
Getting Around the Area
Shuttle Bus Service
The University of Charleston offers a shuttle bus service to help students with their transportation needs. An updated schedule of times and days of availability will be posted around campus on a regular basis.
Other transportation options in Charleston are the public bus service (UC students ride free), taxi services, Uber and Lyft.
Getting A Drivers License
If you are interested in getting your driver’s license, you will need to go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) located at 5707 MacCorkle Ave SE. To get a license, you must complete an application, pass a written exam and a driving test, and provide the following information:
- I-20 & I-94
- Social Security Card (or letter of denial from Social Security Office)
- 2 proofs of your physical address if you live off campus (i.e. utility bill, phone bill, bank statement, etc.)
- Letter from UC stating that you are a full-time student in good standing (dated within 30 days of applying — See the front desk of the Student Life Office)
If you have questions about this process, please see the Director of International Programs.
Getting a Social Security Number
If you work on campus or as a part of your CPT/OPT, you will need a Social Security number. NOTE: You must wait to apply until at least two weeks after the start of classes to apply for your social security number. You obtain a Social Security number from the Social Security Administration (www.ssa.gov) – it has a local office in downtown Charleston, and you will need to make an appointment.
Take the following documents with you:
- I-94 (access and print your I-94 through this link: https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/#/home,
- Letter or statement from your employer on school letterhead that includes the following information:
- name of the F-1 student employee;
- description of the employment;
- anticipated or actual employment start date no more than 30 days in the future at the time of application for an SSN;
- number of hours the student is expected to work;
- employer identity number (EIN);
- employer contact information, including the telephone number and the name of the F1 student’s immediate supervisor;
- verification of the employment status (i.e. student has been hired);
- original signature with signatory’s title and date.
- Letter or statement from the DSO on school letterhead (Note: To request this letter, take the letter from your employer to the front desk of the Student Life office)
- printed or typed, name, signature, and telephone number of the DSO;
- date the letter or statement is signed;
- the name of a single F1 student applying for an SSN;
- indication that the student is attending school;
- name of approved school attended;
- on-campus employer name and contact information; and
- nature of the on-campus employment.
Under normal circumstances, the process can be completed in 14 days.
You must report your Social Security number to the Business Office, the International Programs Office, and your employer.
If you are an on-campus employee, the department offering the position can submit a yellow employment Payroll Authorization form to the Vice-President of Finance for authorization. Additionally, you must complete the orange Part-time Employee Payroll Packet of tax documents and return it to the Business Office. Once all documents have been approved, you can begin working.
Traveling within the USA
While Charleston and West Virginia offer much to see and do, you may wish to experience other locations in the US as well. If you intend to travel within the U.S. during your stay, there are no special documents necessary. Be sure to carry your passport with your I-94 and I-20 so that you will have legal identifying documents in your possession should any problems arise.
Out-of-country (exit USA with intent to re-enter)
A valid I-20 needs a signature by a Designated School Official (DSO) for travel. Please come to the International Office at least two weeks before you travel to have the Director of International Programs endorse your I-20.
Travel to Canada, Mexico, or the Caribbean Islands:
In most cases, you do not need to have a valid U.S. visa to reenter the United States if your visit will be less than 30 days to any of these countries. However, you must be in possession of a valid I-94 which you must present upon entry to and exit from Canada, Mexico, or a Caribbean Island. A valid I-20 is also required, as is a valid passport. If you will be in one of these countries 30 days or longer, a valid U.S. visa will be required for reentry to the U.S.
When traveling to Canada or any other country, all regulations of that country apply: You may need to obtain a visa for the country/countries you intend to visit. You should obtain visas at the appropriate embassies or consulates here in the U.S. before departing.
This is a big moment, and of course you want those you love to be able to see it in person. The B-2 visitor visa is a good choice for visits less than 6 months in duration. For a complete list of documents required for the B-2 visa, see the website of the U.S. Embassy or Consulate where the visa application will be made.
The most important part of the B-2 visa application will be the applicant’s demonstration of ties to the home country, the short duration of the trip, planned return to the home country, and ability to cover expenses. As a student, you can provide supporting documents for the B-2 visa application.
To invite your relatives (any family members other than your spouse and children) and friends to the U.S., you may send a letter confirming your date of graduation from the University of Charleston to those you are inviting to graduation.
In order to obtain this letter, you must provide the Director of International Programs with:
- A letter from your academic advisor confirming your graduation date
- The names and passport numbers of the family members and/or significant other that you wish to invite
- A letter of invitation written by YOU in English stating that you would like to invite the person for a visit that includes:
- Name and relationship of the visitor(s) to you
- Length of the visit
- Who will provide financial support for the visit (if you, provide evidence of support such as a bank statement)
- Purpose of the visit (i.e. to attend graduation)
- Evidence of your student status (i.e. a copy of your I-20)
Your family members or friends should also bring “proof of ties” to their home country when they apply for the visa, such as:
- Copies of deeds to any property (i.e. land, house, apartment) that they own in their home country
- Bank statements of any accounts they maintain at home
- A letter from their employer stating that they will return to their job after the U.S. visit
- All other documentation as specifically required by the Embassy or Consulate.
Additional information about the B-2 visa:
B-2 visitors may apply for an extension of stay with the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services by filing an I-539 and demonstrating financial support and purpose of the extension. The I-539 form, instructions, and fees can be found at www.uscis.gov.
The length of the visa does not equate to the length of stay. When the visitor enters the U.S., their documents will be inspected by a U.S. border official. The officer will determine the amount of time the visitor will be permitted to remain in the U.S. and write that date on the I-94 Arrival/Departure record. The maximum period of admission for a regular B-2 visitor is 6 months.
For detailed information about the B-2 nonimmigrant visa, go to http://travel.state.gov/content/visas/en.html
All requests for official transcripts are submitted through an online service. If you need an official copy of your transcript in order to renew your visa, you should complete the appropriate Transcript Request form online at www.studentclearinghouse.org.
You can use any major credit card to order as many official transcripts as you like. You will be able to track your order online. If you have any questions about transcript ordering, please contact the Student Solutions Center
If you wish to transfer from our university to another you need to:
- Bring an acceptance letter from the new university to the Director of International Programs
- Obtain a transfer form from the new school and have the Director complete it.
- Sign and submit the UC Transfer Out Release form.
- Once the first two requirements have been met and as long as you have a zero balance on your account at UC, the University will transfer your record.
- Meet with the DSO at your new school to ensure that all paperwork is in order.
If you have always maintained your status while studying here at the University of Charleston, you should have no problems transferring to a new school. If you have not maintained your status, you may have to ask the new school to apply for a reinstatement for you.