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Resources for International Visitors with Stanford Appointments

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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

International Visitors with Stanford Appointments

Welcome to Stanford University. We appreciate that you have chosen to join our diverse campus community with people from all over the world. Your perspectives and expertise are a valuable source of enrichment for our community and we value the opportunity to deepen engagement with you.

Below is a detailed FAQ for international visitors with appointments at Stanford to prepare for arrival and joining our community. We hope this is useful to visiting scholars, fellows, and student researchers.

These resources are provided as reference only. Stanford University does not endorse external or third-party entities. This FAQ is not exhaustive, but it is a sample of resources others have found helpful. 

We hope you’ll enjoy partaking in the intellectual life of the university. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Contact Merry Pham, Program Manager for International Engagement, at merryp@stanford.edu

Pre-arrival Steps & InformationVisa & Status IssuesHousingFinancesWork, Life & FamilySocialTransportationLanguageWireless Network & SUNet IDStanford ID CardLibraryUniversity PoliciesHealth & SafetyVolunteer Opportunities

Pre-Arrival Steps & Information

What centers, departments, or organizations are available to support me?

Stanford University centers, departments, and local offices below may be useful to navigating the campus community. Explore the FAQ list below to navigate specific services as well as other resources, organized by topics.

Stanford

Stanford Affiliate

Non-Stanford

What steps should I take to prepare for my arrival to the U.S.?

Visit the Bechtel International Center for new scholar information. Bechtel provides information about and assistance with obtaining and maintaining legal status in the U.S. to international students, scholars, and Stanford departments.

Review Bechtel International Center’s Practical Matters page, which contains the following information: 

  • How and when to apply for a driver’s license
  • Health insurance requirements and resources to find insurance plans
  • How to apply for an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN)
  • Notaries on campus
  • How to apply for a Social Security Number (SSN)
  • Taxes and general guidelines and resources
  • Eshipment instructions for immigration documents
  • Public charge rule from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security and the U.S. Department of State

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Visa & Status Issues

How do I determine which visa type I should apply for?

Generally, visiting scholars and faculty, fellows, and visiting student researchers with appointments at Stanford are typically sponsored with the J-1 scholar visa (while employees are typically sponsored with H1-B, O, or TN visas). Click here for an overview of visa types as well as information about how to obtain them and their requirements and restrictions.

What is the J-1 visa application process?

In general, the department hosting you will tell you what specific information you need to provide them (e.g. passport, funding source, etc.) in order for them to submit a DS-2019 request form to Bechtel International Center. Once the DS-2019 request form is processed, they will send you the necessary documentation with which you can apply for the visa through the local U.S. embassy or consulate in your home country. Review the J-1 scholar visa application process here in more detail. Additional information on relevant supporting documents can also be found here.

My spouse or children will be accompanying me as dependents. What is the process for dependent visas?

The J-2 dependent visa process is linked with your J-1 visa process. Review the J-2 dependent visa process here.

I am currently at another U.S. institution in an F-1 or J-1 visa status and have been accepted to Stanford University. How do I transfer my visa sponsorship to Stanford?

Bechtel International Center provides guidelines here to transfer your F-1 or J-1 visa sponsorship to Stanford.

What steps should I follow to maintain a valid J-1 status in the U.S.?

Follow these guidelines during your stay in the U.S. to maintain lawful J-1 status, as failure to do so can have serious long-term consequences for you.

Who can I contact if I have questions about the visa document process?

For general inquiries, contact the administrator of the department hosting you, as they will be sponsoring you and supporting your submission of the DS-2019 request form with which you can apply for a J-1 visa. For urgent inquiries, contact the Bechtel International Center’s international scholar advisors at internationalscholars@stanford.edu or find the contact information for their team here.

Where can I find support if I have an immigration issue?

Check out immigration support offered by the Bechtel International Center. You can also visit the Stanford Immigration Issues and Resources website for an overview of resources.

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Housing 

Where can I search for housing?

Below are some housing resources typically used by the community. Please review the description for each R&DE housing resource, which notes what affiliates/visitors may be eligible for, in addition to commonly used third-party resources available to everyone. If you are a visiting faculty in particular, you are eligible to apply for Stanford West housing but there is a very competitive waiting list, so visiting faculty are encouraged to look into other options as well.

How do I avoid fake ads or rental scams?

For general information on how to identify rental listing scams and how to protect yourself from scams targeting renters, check out the Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Information page or the Official Guide to Government Information and Services’ section on Housing Scams. You can also read additional tips below.

What is the housing process in the U.S.?           

In general, the procedure for securing housing may vary from one landlord to another, but typically includes the three steps below. Visit the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website for more information and resources on California's tenant rights, laws and protections.

  1. Filling in a housing application.
  2. Providing a source of income (if you don’t have a social security number, you may not have a credit history that would provide the landlord with proof of your ability to pay). The landlord may request other documentation such as your invitation letter or a copy of your visa.
  3. If approved, and there is a signing of the lease, you will probably need to provide the first month’s rent and a security deposit. The security deposit is held for the reimbursement of any damages to the unit that you may incur during your tenancy. Check the language on the lease. Landlords may sometimes also deduct for cleaning charges upon your move out. The security deposit is usually the same amount as one month of rent but this also may vary. The security deposit is returned to you within 21 days of your move out date.

I will be renting an off-campus apartment or house. Where can I find information on managing utilities? 

Review your lease and check with your landlord about what utilities they will cover (or are included in the rent), if any, and what you as a tenant are responsible for (i.e. cost of gas, electricity, water, sewage, trash). Residents of Palo Alto can go to the Palo Alto city website to find information for new customers about managing utilities. If you reside in any other nearby city, visit that city’s official website for their utility information. Additionally, gas and electricity in many other cities are managed by Pacific Gas and Electric Company (PG&E).

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Finances

What is the cost of living in the San Francisco Bay Area?

Below are some resources that provide an overview of the cost of living in the area.

What bank options do I have?

Below are some local banks on campus (they also have ATMs on campus). There are also a number of other banks in the broader Palo Alto community.

How do I open a U.S. bank account?

Generally, it is recommended to visit the bank branch to open an account. Every bank may have slightly different requirements, so it is best to check with the bank directly for specific requirements. Typically, in addition to your passport, you will likely need at least one of the following: your school ID, your state driver’s license or ID, your visa, your DS-2019, or your I-94. While the social security number is commonly asked for, an SSN is typically not required to open a bank account. If a bank asks for it, offer your passport and any of the other ID documents mentioned above. Below are additional tips on how to open a U.S. bank account.

  • Finder: “How to open a bank account in the United States”

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Bing Nursery School scene

Work, Life & Family

Where can I find general work, life and family resources?

The Cardinal at Work office offers information on programs and services for every stage of life to help employees manage the competing demands of work, school, family and personal responsibilities. They also share COVID-19 family resources. As an affiliate, visitors with Stanford appointments are eligible for services and can contact their office to learn more about available resources, guidance or support.

The Bechtel International Center also offers programs for spouses, partners and families, including community events, a list of educational opportunities, and employment guidelines for dependents of F-1/J-1/H-1 visa holders.

The Community Committee for International Students offers the Community Advisors program, which is a friendly and personal way for internationals to get oriented in the area. They also provide resources for spouses including the Professional Liaison program and the Spouse Education Fund.

2-1-1 Bay Area is the comprehensive information and referral service for San Francisco, San Mateo, Napa, Marin, Santa Clara, and Solano counties. They connect over 37,000 Bay Area callers and texters each year with information about health and human services available to them. You can call 211 for free, non-emergency information on available community services including assistance with basic needs, child & elder care, employment, health services, immigration, counseling & opportunities to volunteer or donate.

I have school-age children. What schools or programs can I enroll them in?

Here is a list of local public schools and school-age aftercare programs. Visit their websites directly for their registration and enrollment process.

What child care options are available? 

Cardinal at Work provides a list of on-site and off-site childcare options. You can also join the Stanford ParentNet mailing list. This email list serves the parent community at Stanford and is a great resource for finding childcare, nannies, preschools, and other family-related issues.

Additional child care centers can be found here on the YWCA Silicon Valley website. The City of Palo Alto offers a list of childcare resources.

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Social 

What local social activities or resources are available to me?

Stanford Recreation & Wellness provides a number of facilities and programs including the gymnasium, fitness center, and pool and aquatic center. Click here to learn what you can access with a Stanford ID card, Recreation All Access Card, or Courtesy Card. Daily Rec Facility Passes are also available for purchase.

Visitors can subscribe to Stanford for You to receive a free monthly e-newsletter about fun, fascinating and affordable virtual and campus events. There are many events open to the public all around the world, so you can stay connected during and after your visit.

Stanford Residential & Dining Enterprises shares a list of on-campus dining and retail options. Additionally, the closest off-campus options in Palo Alto are Stanford Shopping Center and Town and Country Village. Downtown Palo Alto also has a vibrant community and offers many attractions.

Bay Area Hiker maps an extensive range of hiking trails in the region.

Bay Area Kid Fun shares hundreds of fun things to do with children in the San Francisco Bay Area.

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Transportation

What transportation options are available to commute to and travel around campus?

Stanford Transportation provides a number of resources to get around campus such as a searchable campus map and traveling with the free Marguerite campus shuttle or by bicycle (including information on bike safety tips, how to register your bike, bike laws, and more).

Commuters can visit the Stanford Transportation Transit page to learn more about local transportation options such as train, bus, and light rail. 

How can I purchase a campus parking permit?

Visit this page to learn how you can purchase a virtual parking permit for your vehicle. You need a parking permit to park on campus.

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Language

Where can I find English language resources?

The Community Committee for International Students offers free English classes open to Stanford international students, post-doctoral scholars, and their family members with intermediate to advanced English proficiency. The classes are taught by experienced volunteers.

The English in Action Program matches English-speaking community volunteers with Stanford international graduate students, visiting scholars, post-doctorates, or spouses.

Stanford Language Center offers English for Foreign Students (EFS) 688V, an intensive English and academic orientation summer program designed to prepare incoming visiting scholars of all types (researchers, professors, postdoctoral fellows, etc.) for their U.S. university experience.

Palo Alto Adult School offers English Enrichment classes for non-native speakers who have tested above their state-supported program or who wish to focus on one specific area of English. It is not necessary to take the placement test before enrolling in these classes. They also offer free state-supported English as a Second Language classes.

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Wireless Network & SUNet ID

How do I connect to Stanford’s wireless network?

This Wireless Access page provides information on how visitors and guests can access the wireless network.

What is a SUNet ID?

The SUNet ID is an account name that identifies you, uniquely and permanently, as a member of the Stanford community. It is recorded in Stanford business systems and is visible to university employees. It's what you'll use to log into most secure online services. Your SUNet ID and password supply your online credentials; your access to specific online services is determined by your eligibility and authority. For more detailed information, click here.

How do I get a Stanford SUNet ID and email address?

The department hosting you must sponsor you for a SUNet ID and email account. Here is more information on how the department can sponsor you with a Base Account (SUNet ID only, no email) or a Full Account (email & services), as well as Library e-resources. If sponsored, you will receive an email to set up your SUNet ID and password.

The Stanford Webmail service allows you to access your email on the web from any computer at any location. To login, go to http://webmail.stanford.edu and enter your SUNet ID and password.

How do I manage my electronic record with the university?

Visit Axess, the web-based system where members of the Stanford community review and update information in their electronic records. Login with your SUNet ID and password.

Where can I find information for other IT support?

You can explore University IT’s services or submit a Service Now help ticket for any other IT issues.

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Stanford ID Card

What does the Stanford ID card serve as?

The Stanford ID (variously known as the Campus Card, University ID, or Student ID) serves as: an identification card; an electronic key card controlling access to residence and dining halls, libraries, recreational facilities, and staff office buildings; and a debit card which can be used to purchase goods and services at select locations on campus. Visit Campus Card Services for more information.

Are all visitors with appointments eligible for a Stanford ID card?

Only visitors who are here for a minimum of three months are eligible for a Stanford ID card, per the Administrative Guide Memo 2.4.3 Stanford Identification Cards. The guide memo provides a comprehensive overview of the purpose, types, management, and uses of Stanford ID cards or other cards.

How do I create a Stanford ID card?

Visit the Stanford ID Card Office to create a new or replacement ID card. They also assist in developing new Stanford ID Card applications.

Can my spouse, partner or dependent create a card?

Courtesy cards are issued to certain university affiliates, including spouses/domestic partners of eligible employees. Recreation access cards are also available for dependents. See the Courtesy and Recreation ID Cards page for more information on how to create these cards (may include fees) and what resources they provide access to, such as certain Stanford Recreation & Wellness programs.

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people viewing electronic resources in the library

Library

What library resources do I have access to?

In the process of sponsoring your SUNet ID, your department can also sponsor you to access electronic Library resources. If your sponsorship includes e-Library resources, click here to learn how to access them. Additionally, the Stanford Libraries Access & Privileges page provides information on what other library resources visitors are eligible for with a Stanford ID card.

I am a short-term visitor and am not eligible for a Stanford ID card. Can I still access library resources?

Stanford Libraries provides the most current information for short-term visitors here.

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University Policies 

What policies pertain to my affiliation/appointment with Stanford?

As a member of the Stanford University community, each of us is responsible for adhering to university policies including applicable policies in Stanford’s Administrative Guide, the Faculty Handbook (for visiting faculty), and the Research Policy Handbook. Non-Faculty Research Appointments including visiting scholars and visiting student researchers should note the Research Policy Handbook’s sections pertaining to their respective roles.

Each of us is responsible for maintaining the highest ethical standards and performing activities with the utmost integrity and fairness. The Stanford Code of Conduct is our guide for ethical, professional, and legal standards of behavior. You can also refer to this shareable PDF infographic of the Code of Conduct in brief.

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Health & Safety

What number should I call if I have an emergency in the U.S.?

Call 911 for emergencies. To learn about the general call process, click here.

  • From your cell or other phones, dial 911
  • From University office phones, dial 9-911
  • Look for a blue 911 emergency phone tower on campus and activate

What options do I have for medical care?

Below is a list of some local hospitals, clinics, and urgent care centers. Please make sure to contact your health insurance provider to confirm if they will cover or reimburse the cost of any medical care or services. Otherwise, you may be responsible for the cost of care or services. Your health insurance provider might also be able to refer you to other medical care options.

Non-English speakers, or speakers whose primary language is not English, can request assistance in their primary language from most hospitals and from 9-1-1. Please note that there is a delay while an interpreter, if available, is summoned.

Where can I find information on how to prepare for emergencies such as an earthquake or fire?

Stanford’s Environmental Health & Safety (EH&S) department provides Emergency Response Guidelines for various types of emergencies. You can also contact Stanford’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) with any safety concerns.

How can I be notified of any emergencies on campus or in the community?

The university will send an AlertSU notice to Stanford members should an emergency arise. Visit this AlertSU FAQ for more information on the system and how you can find the current status of emergency situations when they arise at Stanford.

You can also enroll in the Santa Clara County Emergency Alert System, which is a free and easy way to get emergency alerts sent directly to your cell phone or mobile device, landline, or email.

Where can I find resources and support for abuse, violence and crisis issues?

Visiting scholars can contact the Faculty Staff Help Center for one free session. Typically, during this session they will also provide an outside referral if needed.

Santa Clara County provides a list of Help and Healing Resources. The YWCA Silicon Valley also provides therapy services, crisis support, and more. Contact these resources for more information.

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Volunteer Opportunities

Stanford is building programming and resources for employees to engage with the communities nearby. Explore opportunities at Cardinal at Work Cares.

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