There will be many things that you will need to consider before you leave for the U.S. Check the following to see if you have the most essential things ready for travel.
If you are a J-1 student or scholar, UCSF will issue you a Form DS-2019 to enter the U.S. If you are an F-1 student you will be issued a Form I-20. For all other visa categories, you will be given specific instructions on what documents you will need to enter the U.S. when you receive your welcome package from UCSF.
IT IS VERY IMPORTANT THAT YOU BRING THESE DOCUMENTS WITH YOU TO THE U.S. ON YOUR PERSON. You will not be allowed to enter the country without them. Please contact your host department if you do not receive a welcome package.
If you are entering on a J-1 or F-1 visa, please make sure that your passport is valid for at least six months past the intended date of arrival in the U.S. For all other visa categories, your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond your initial intended period of stay in the U.S. Otherwise, officials at the U.S. Port of Entry may not allow you to enter the U.S.
Name as it Appears on Passport
It is very important that you use your name exactly as it appears in your passport for all U.S. documents such as your visa stamp, I-94 Form, UCSF employment paperwork, driver's license, social security card, bank accounts, tax returns, etc. The failure to do so may result in delays or denials in the issuance of your documents.
Visa Stamp In Passport
With the exception of Canadian citizens, you must apply for a non-immigrant visa stamp at the U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country to be allowed entry into the U.S. For instructions on how to apply for a visa stamp, go to the embassy or consulate website where you will be applying. You can find contact information for U.S. embassies and consulates around the world at: U.S. Embassy. For visa wait times check: Visa Wait Times.
Other Important Documents
If you have dependents that will be accompanying you to the U.S., be ready to show officials at both the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Port of Entry an original and English translation of your marriage certificate and birth certificates for any children.
For students, you may also want to have your UCSF letter of admission and any financial support documents ready to show officials at both the U.S. Embassy and the U.S. Port of Entry.
Lastly, you might want to bring along your foreign driver’s license for identification purposes.
We recommend that you wait until you receive your visa stamp in your passport before you make airline reservations, since the waiting period for visa issuance is so unpredictable.
Also note that F-1 and J-1 visa holders are not allowed to enter the U.S. more than 30 days prior to their program start date and air travel should be planned accordingly. For all other visa types, please contact the International Students and Scholars Office for additional information regarding pre-employment entry to the U.S.
If you land at one U.S. Port of Entry, but must make a connecting flight to San Francisco, be sure to give yourself at least three hours or more between flights to go clear U.S. Immigration and Customs, claim your checked bags and re-check them for your connecting flights. All passengers arriving in the U.S. must claim their baggage at their U.S. Port of Entry and re-check them for their connecting flight after clearing customs. Check-in counters, for this purpose, are located right behind the customs area in most U.S. international airports.
Unlike many countries, the U.S. does not offer socialized national health care that automatically covers everyone. Medical care in the U.S. is also very expensive, and having inadequate or no health insurance can result in catastrophic situations for an individual or their family.
By law, J visa holders and their dependents are required to have health insurance. Also, it is mandatory for all UCSF students to have health insurance (it is included in the payment of registration fees). If you are in the U.S. on any other visa, we highly recommend that you carry health insurance at all times. Please check with your department for more details.
Please note that if you are an international Postdoctoral Scholar and you enroll in the UC Postdoctoral Scholars Benefits Plan, then your PI is required to pay most of the cost of your benefits. For more information go to: Postdoctoral benefits.
Be sure to bring a sufficient amount of cash in U.S. dollars, traveler’s checks in U.S. Dollars, and an optional credit card to cover the costs of your first few weeks in San Francisco.
If you are coming to work at UCSF and will be receiving a paycheck, please be aware that there may be a one month or longer delay before you get paid, and should plan your finances accordingly. Furthermore, if you plan to rent your own apartment or house in San Francisco, you may need more than $3,000 to cover the costs of the first and last month’s rent, as well as the security deposit.
Although temperatures are considered moderate for the United States (46° to 64° Fahrenheit, 7° to 17° Celsius), winters as well as summers in San Francisco can get rather cold. There is an average rainfall of 19 inches a year and a chilling fog that can sometimes last for weeks.
September and October are considered the “summer” months with temperatures sometimes rising to 90° Fahrenheit, but this is rare. In fact, on any given day of the year, it can be warm in the morning and freezing cold in the afternoon. To accommodate this unpredictable weather, the average San Franciscan will dress in layers — a coat, over a sweater, over a shirt. A hooded sweater is the most useful piece of clothing to own in San Francisco.
Short Term Housing Reservation
While most of you will be living in San Francisco for more than a few months, we highly recommend that you wait until you arrive to search for more long-term housing. You will want to find a room, apartment, or house that is comfortable, clean, safe, and conveniently located.
This can be difficult to determine over an internet website. Therefore, prior to your departure, it is important that you make reservations for short-term housing for the first few days while you look for a place to live. Below you will find a list of short-term housing accommodations located within walking distance to the UCSF Parnassus Campus. When making reservations, do not forget to inquire about UCSF discounts or special rates, which may be available at some of these facilities.
Please note that students and faculty are eligible for UCSF on-campus housing and may not need to make short-term housing reservations. For more information on on-campus housing or other short-term housing in different parts of the city, please check the UCSF Housing website.
NOTE: The listings below are not affiliated in any manner with UCSF. UCSF does not investigate, endorse, or guarantee the accommodations listed.