Once you have acquired your H-1B visa, which will be stamped in your passport, you are eligible to request admission at a U.S. Port of Entry. Be sure that you have in your possession your I-797 (which the visa issuance officer will return to you) and your passport when you travel. When you arrive in the United States, your documents will be examined and processed by a staff member of the Department of Homeland Security at the port of entry, your I-797 form and passport will be returned to you along with an I-94 card (Arrival/Departure Record). These documents are extremely important since they legitimize your presence in the United States, and you should keep them in a safe place. Canadian citizens do not need visas to enter the United States. They enter by presenting the I-797 form, copy of the H-1B petition, and a valid passport at the port of entry to the United States.
Registration in the International Student and Scholar Office
Shortly after your arrival, you must bring your passport and visa documents to the International Student and Scholar Office. This should be done no later than your first date of hire and before you apply for your Social Security Card.
In the U.S., certain kinds of non-emergency elective health care, such as eye care and dentistry, frequently are not covered by insurance and may be quite expensive. To the extent possible, the Exchange Visitor should take care of those needs before leaving home or bring additional funds to cover these expenses.
Climate and Weather
You will find it almost essential to have a checking account in the U.S. Most shoppers here use automatic debit cards, checks or credit cards for many purchases and usually carry only enough cash for daily activities.
Coins (cents) denominations are: penny=1 cent; nickel=5 cents; dime=10 cents; half-dollar=50 cents; one dollar=100 cents=$1. Paper currency (dollars) denominations are $1, $2 (seldom used), $5, $10, $20, $50, and $100. Denominations above $100 are no longer printed, but some of the larger denominations still remain in the hands of private citizens. All currency in general circulation is the same size and color, which can be confusing at first.
Prices for apartments vary depending on location and amenities. Rent for an unfurnished one-bedroom apartment in this area starts around $400 per month and goes up depending on the number of bedrooms, location, etc. Though you pay rent on a month-to-month basis, you will find that most apartments require you to sign a six-month to one-year lease which is a contract binding you to pay the rent for your apartment the length of time specified. When you sign a lease, you should be prepared to pay the rent for the time indicated in the contract or find someone to "sublet" or take over the lease when you leave. Check with the apartment company though because some apartments do not permit subleasing.
Water often is the one utility that is included the rent price. Other utilities, such as electricity and gas, often are not included in the rent fee, and payments must be made directly to the respective companies. To obtain telephone service, you must contact the telephone company directly. There is a basic monthly fee that permits unlimited local calls. Long distance calls are charged by the minute.
If you plan to own or operate an automobile while in the U.S., you will be required to hold a driver's license and to obtain automobile insurance in order to operate the vehicle in Huntsville. After you have found a place to live and have settled in, and receive your social security card, you can take the licensing exam and obtain a license. Automobile insurance must be purchased in order to register a car in Huntsville. You can choose from a number of insurance agencies and costs vary depending on the type of car to be insured, the age and driving experience of the drivers, and the amount of insurance purchased.
In the U.S. our system is to pay taxes for a full year and then file a report with the federal and state Internal Revenue Service to document the amount paid and any exemptions, treaties, or other exclusions that may provide for a refund of taxes paid. Sometimes this annual tax report may show that you paid less taxes throughout the year than the government requires and you may owe taxes to the federal or state government. The International Student and Scholar Office provides tax assistance and resources for F and J visa holders starting in early March each year.
Tax treaties between the U.S. and other countries exempt some students, researchers and professors from paying U.S. state and federal income taxes. Each treaty has its own restrictions and provisions. The national tax authority in your country or the U.S. embassy or consulate can provide current information on tax treaties. The Payroll Office at the University of Alabama in Huntsville will determine if you are eligible to claim exemption from income tax withholding based on a treaty. You should meet with the Payroll Office staff if you have questions regarding your eligibility for a tax treaty.
Private schools operated by either secular or religious organizations usually charge tuition and may or may not have admission requirements. Attendance at these schools generally does not depend upon your place of residence.
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