Frequently Asked Questions

Q. How do I get a visa?
A. Your PI, the Genome Sciences Department and the International Scholars Organization (ISO) will work with you to decide which visa option is right for you.

J-1 visa, The Exchange Visitor Program: The University of Washington (commonly called "U-Dub") has been designated by the Department of State as an exchange visitor program sponsor. Please see the Department of State's Welcome Brochure. The UW sponsors Exchange Visitors for a variety of educational purposes including teaching, research, observation, consultation, and student internships. The UW will issue you (and your dependents) a DS-2019 to obtain a J-1 visa. The DS-2019 is your certificate of eligibility for exchange visitor status at the University of Washington. Check this document for accuracy, carefully read the instructions on page 2, then sign and date it. The DS-2019 was issued by an adviser ("Responsible Officer") in the International Scholars Operations (ISO), and records your biographical data, identifies your UW academic department, and lists the beginning and ending dates of your exchange program, category of participation, and source and amount of funding. The DS-2019 serves several important purposes (for example, permitting you to apply for a visa) and must remain valid at all times. Keep every DS-2019 for your permanent record - do not discard the old ones.

H-1B visa: The H-1B visa permits temporary employment in “specialty occupations” which require “theoretical and practical application of a body of highly specialized knowledge to fully perform the occupation.” The H-1B is employer-specific, position-specific, and location-specific. Any change in employer, position title or worksite location must be reported to International Scholars Operations (ISO) in advance of the change. The UW sponsors H-1B visas for full-time academic appointments including postdoctoral researchers and professors. The UW only sponsors H-1B visas after an applicant has exhausted a J-1 visa or an OPT and OPT Extension. Please direct any questions about visa sponsorship to ISO. Without exception, all H-1B visas based on UW employment are processed by ISO. Only the Vice Provost for Academic Personnel has authority to sign a Labor Condition Application or H-1B petition on behalf of the UW. Attorneys are not permitted to represent the UW’s interests in immigration matters.

TN: The TN classification is available to Canadian and Mexican citizens who seek to enter the US on a temporary basis to work in a professional-level job under provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement. You must be employed in one of the professions listed in the NAFTA Professional Job Series List and have at least a baccalaureate degree unless an alternative credential is specified. The list includes university professors and researchers. Although the regulations do not limit the number of years you may remain in the US, TN is a nonimmigrant status. You must establish to the satisfaction of USCIS that the employment opportunity is both temporary and short-term. Canadian professionals are admitted into the US in TN-1 status. Mexican professionals are admitted into the U.S. in TN-2 status. Though the procedures are similar, the procedures for Mexican citizens are a bit more complex than for Canadians.

Q. When can I come to the US with my new J-1 visa?
A. You must enter the US within the 30-day period prior to the start date indicated in item 3 of the DS-2019. If unable to enter the US before the start date, contact the Department to request a new DS-2019 and enter using the new form.

Q. If I am a foreign national, do I need to have insurance, including medical evacuation & repatriation insurance, before I arrive in Seattle?
A. Yes, please make these arrangements before arriving in the US. For more information, please see health insurance requirements and insurance compliance.

Q. Will I be eligible for UW sponsored health insurance?
A. Yes, you are eligible for the same benefits as all of the UW academic staff. There are several insurance carries and policies to choose from and you will have the opportunity to attend a benefits orientation to learn more about each option. More information is available on the University of Washington Benefits website.

Q. When will my UW health insurance benefits begin?
A. If your appointment effective date is other than the first of the month or the first business day of the month, medical coverage will be effective the first day of the following month. A comprehensive description of UW benefits is available on the University of Washington Benefits website. However, if you do start on the first of the month, your health insurance coverage begins on your first day.

Q. Will my spouse and children be eligible for UW health insurance benefits?
A. Yes, if you will be covered under a UW sponsored plan, you may include your dependents on your insurance policy. When you decide which insurance carrier and policy is right for you, you will be able to add your dependents to the plan.

Q. How do I obtain a Social Security Card?
A. You are required to attend an ISO check-in within the first 30-days of your arrival. Information on obtaining SS Cards, Washington State Driver License and other IDs will be made available. More information is available on the social security website and elsewhere on the social security website.

Q. If I have a change of address, who do I report it to?
A. Report any change of address to ISO within ten days of the change. Failure to report a change of address may result in revocation of your exchange visitor status.

Q. Prior to my move to Seattle, may I ship boxes of personal effects to the Genome Sciences Department, in preparation for my move?
A. Please contact your PI and new lab directly. They will let you know if they have sufficient room to accept and hold boxes.

Q. If I need to apply for a work permit for my spouse, will Genome Sciences pay for the filing fee?
A. No. Other than the visa itself, any document filings on behalf of your spouse must be paid by you directly through USCIS. UW and the Department of Genome Sciences only work directly with the employee visa holder- all other questions should be routed to a professional, in other words, you may choose to contact an Immigration Attorney for specifics.

Q. Where should I open a bank account? How do I transfer money from my old account to the US?
A. To transfer money to the US, your financial institution will need to make arrangements with a bank that has an office in Seattle. There may be a limit to the amount of funds which may be transferred. Banks within walking distance of campus include:
Bank of America, 4701 University Way NE
Key Bank, 400 NE Ravenna Blvd.
Chase Bank, 4300 Brooklyn Ave NE
Wells Fargo, 4100 University Way NE

Q.  How do I get a Washington State Driver’s license or photo ID card?
A. For a small fee, the Washington State Department of Licensing issues driver's licenses, and also photo identification (ID) cards for non-drivers. Identification cards can be issued at any age and are valid for 5 years. As a J-1 scholar, you may drive in Washington State with your valid home country driver's license for one year. After one year, you will need a Washington State driver's license.  The Washington State driver's license also serves as an official identification card.

Q. I’ve applied for a Washington State Driver’s License and need a print-out of my SEVIS. Where do I get this?
A. The Department of Licensing has reinstated the proof of local residence requirement for individuals without a Social Security number who are applying for a Washington State driver's license. (If you have a Social Security number, or if you are applying for a Washington State ID, additional proof of residency is not required.) Prior to visiting a Department of Licensing location, you must obtain a printout of your electronic SEVIS record which indicates your current address. Please fill out this Request for SEVIS Printout and return to the ISO office.

Q. Will I be able to leave the US while on my J-1 visa and return at a later date?
A. You are able to travel for short periods (i.e. conferences, vacations, etc.), but for periods of time outside the US longer than a week, please contact ISO so they may review your documents and discuss travel procedures. Trips over 30 days are permissible only is the travel is consistent with the purpose and goals of your UW program. If you will be outside of the US longer than 30 days to perform research or other collaborative UW activities, you must complete and have ISO approve an Out of Country Request before you leave the US. You can then return to the US after an absence of more than 30 days to continue your J-1 program. If the Out of Country Request is not completed and approved, your exchange activity will be considered ended, and you may be subject to 12 or 24 month bars on repeat participation in J-1 status. 

Q. Will I be able to transfer from one UW department to another while on my visa?
A. You may transfer from one program sponsor to another if the purpose of the transfer is to complete the academic objective for which you were admitted. The transfer process requires coordination between the Responsible Officer of the current J-1 program and the Responsible Officer of the new J-1 program. The Responsible Officer is the administrator of an institution's Exchange Visitor program and is typically a staff member in a university international student and scholar office.