J-1 Prearrival Information

Travel Arrangements

If you are outside of the U.S., your department will send your DS-2019 to you. You will need to obtain a J-1 visa in your passport. Please read the information on applying for a J-1 visa overseas and the explanation of J-1 documents carefully. After you have received your J-1 visa, you should make your travel arrangements to the U.S.

Check your start date on your DS-2019 before making travel arrangements. You may not arrive in the U.S. more than 30 days before or after your start date. If you cannot arrive during this time frame, please contact your department so that the Office for International Students and Scholars can amend your DS-2019. We recommend that you schedule your arrival for a few days before the program start date on your DS-2019 so that you can search for an apartment and settle in. Remember that immigration laws do not allow you to begin your program before your DS-2019 start date.

Initial Expenses

These figures should give you a rough indication of the approximate range of some of the necessary expenses that you will incur upon arrival and during your first month in St. Louis:

  • Transportation:
    • Taxi: $30-45 per person, on average, from the airport (depending on destination)
    • Bus & Metro Link: $2-$3 per ride
    • Rental Car: $45-$65 per day
  • Hotel: $90-$200 per room, per night
  • Food:
    • Fast Food: $6-$10 per person, per meal
    • Restaurant: $10-$30 per person, per meal
  • Tips: 15-20% of the check’s total
  • First Month’s Rent: $550-$1,600
  • Rental Deposits: $550-$1,600
  • Utility and Phone Deposits: $100-$250
  • Utility Costs: $50-$150 per month
  • Household Furnishings: $300-$1,800

Note: The budget above covers only minimal essential expenditures. Since items such as travel to St. Louis, clothing, recreation and incidentals are variables, they are not included in this list.

Items to Pack

The following are suggestions about the types of items you should pack for your stay in the U.S. The items you should bring may vary according to your personal needs and your length of stay in St. Louis.

In Your Carry-On Luggage

  • Immigration documents: passport with J-1 visa, and DS-2019
  • Invitation letter from sponsoring department at Washington University in St. Louis
  • About $200 cash in U.S. dollars for initial expenses
  • Medical records (translated, if possible)
  • List of emergency phone numbers and contacts in your home country and at Washington University
  • Clothing and toiletries, enough for a few days (in case your luggage is lost)
  • Laptop computer and any small electronics you may be bringing

In Your Checked Luggage

  • Clothing and shoes. The weather in St. Louis varies by season, so you’ll want to pack accordingly. Note: Temperatures in the U.S. are measured in Fahrenheit (°F).
  • Books, pictures, mementos from your home country. Besides having mementos of your home country for yourself, this is a great way to share your culture with the Americans you’ll meet.

Leave at Home

  • Items that you do not need immediately can be shipped, including bulky items that do not fit in your luggage and clothing that you do not need immediately.
  • Many items can be purchased in the U.S. rather than bringing them from home, such as home appliances, cookware, glassware, most books and food items.

For information about restrictions on what you cannot bring in your carry-on or checked luggage, please visit the Transportation Security Administration.

Transportation from Airport

From the airport, you have several ways to get to Washington University, to your hotel, or to other temporary housing accommodations:

  • Ask a friend or your department contact to pick you up.
  • Taxi: Taxis are available 24 hours a day; the cost from the airport to Washington University is about $30. The usual rate for tips is 15 percent of fare plus $1 per bag.
  • Metro Link: To get to the university’s Danforth Campus, get off at the Skinker Station. To get to the Medical School Campus, get off at the Central West End Station.

Maps of both the Danforth and Medical School campuses are available to assist you.

Temporary Housing

Before you travel to the U.S., make arrangements for temporary housing for your first few nights in St. Louis. The OISS cannot provide temporary housing for you. However, here are a few suggestions:

  • Contact your department to find out if they can offer you any assistance in making temporary arrangements.
  • Reserve a hotel room for a few nights to give you time to find an apartment or other housing for your stay in St. Louis. To search for a hotel, visit the Explore St. Louis visitor page.

J-1 Exchange Visitor Health Insurance Requirement

J-1 Exchange Visitor Program regulations require that J-1 Exchange Visitors (both student and scholar) and their J-2 dependents carry health insurance meeting specific minimum standards (Code of Federal Regulations – 22 CFR 62.14). Failure to maintain required insurance coverage can result in termination of J status and have other adverse immigration consequences. In order to comply with immigration regulations, exchange visitors who are not eligible for Washington University benefits must obtain compliant insurance coverage before coming to the United States. Because health care expenses in the United States can be costly, coverage in the amounts listed below may not be sufficient to cover all expenses for medical care, and higher levels of coverage may be considered. More information is available on the Maintaining J-1 Status page.