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J-1 Scholar Arrival and Check-in

The following webpage provides both requirements for your arrival and first days in the United States.

Entry and Arrival

When planning your arrival, remember that you are eligible to enter the country up to 30 days before the start date listed on your DS-2019.

Be sure to present the DS-2019 and J-1 visa stamp to the immigration official to ensure you enter in J-1 status.

After entering the U.S., access your I-94 on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website, and save it for your records. Learn more about the I-94 Record.

Immigration Check-in for J-1 Scholars sponsored by Northwestern University

Within 5 days of arrival to the U.S., please complete required check-in with the Office of International Student and Scholar Services (OISS) by emailing the follow to your assigned OISS Scholar Advisor:

Email subject: J-1 Scholar Check-in (Last name, First name)

After you have checked in, the OISS will send you an email acknowledging your check-in and other important information. 

Note: J-1 Scholars sponsored by Fulbright do not need to check in with OISS. The U.S. State Department manages SEVIS immigration records for J-1 scholars sponsored by Fulbright.

J-1 Scholar Orientation 

You are required to attend J-1 Orientation, which our office offers once a month via Zoom. The U.S. Department of State requires all exchange visitors to participate in the hosting institution’s orientation program. Topics covered include:

  • General information on the J-1 program
  • Maintaining your immigration status
  • Adding dependents

Please see the OISS Events Calendar to find the next J-1 Scholar Orientation date and the zoom login.

New Employee Checklist for Foreign Nationals

If you will be a paid employee of Northwestern University, the New Employee Checklist for Foreign Nationals will help you understand required steps with OISS, Human Resources, and Payroll.

Social Security

If you are being paid by Northwestern (or any other U.S. institution) you must apply for a Social Security number. You are eligible to apply 10 days after your arrival in the United States.

For application details, visit our webpage on Social Security.

Other Steps After Arrival

Get to know the International Office

Take advantage of our advice and guidance. Scholar advisors are assigned based on the hosting department/school at Northwestern. See the OISS Our Staff webpage to determine your assigned Scholar Advisor.

Sign up for the OISS Community Listserv

A “Listserv” is a means of communicating with a group of people via email. The Office of International Student & Scholar Services (OISS) uses the “OISS-Community” listserv to communicate important news and announcements from OISS to the Northwestern Community. To sign up to receive the OISS-Community listserv, please follow the instructions below:

Log in to the email account you want to use to subscribe.

Compose a new PLAIN TEXT email.

Fill in the email as follows:

Send Email.

If you experience any issues with subscribing to the OISS-Community listserv, please reach out to to be added to the listserv.

Get to know your academic department

Make an effort to get to know your department's administrative contacts, your supervisor, and other colleagues.

Visit or contact important offices on campus

  • Human Resources' Payroll department if you are being paid by Northwestern. You will need to submit necessary paperwork and be entered into the Human Resources database. (This must be completed before you can obtain a WildCARD or set up an email account.)
  • HR's Benefits department if you will be receiving Northwestern health insurance or the Risk Management website if you will be receiving Visiting Scholar Health Insurance.
  • WildCARD Office to obtain a WildCARD, Northwestern's ID card. You will need this card to check out library books, use the free shuttle, purchase on-campus food, receive discounts at local shops and restaurants, and do banking (if linked to an USBank account).
  • Northwestern Information Technology (NUIT) Support Center to set up your email account. Email is free, and it is the University's official form of communication.

Open a bank account

Whether or not you have a social security number, there are a variety of bank options in Evanston/Chicago.

Apply for a driver's license and/or familiarize yourself with other transportation options

Once you have a Social Security number, you can apply for a driver's license. If you do not have a social security number, you can apply for a temporary driver's license. For application details, visit our Driving and Transportation webpage. Information about campus parking is available on the University Police website.

If you do not drive a car, you have many other transit options, including:

Read local newspapers and websites

Learn about Northwestern, Evanston, and Chicago and enjoy yourself.