The University of Iowa

International Student Orientation Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q.  Do I have to attend the entire ISSS orientation program?

All orientation sessions are required.

Q.  What should I do if my department has an orientation that is at the same time as the ISSS program?

Please discuss the conflicts with an ISSS advisor. You may call ISSS at 319-335-0335, email us at or visit our office at 1111 University Capitol Centre.

Q.  How do I register for the SPEAK test (only for students who have been offered a teaching assistantship)?

All students to be tested must first register for the ESPA test through their departments. When a department offers (or is thinking about offering) a teaching assistantship to a student who has never before been a TA at the University, the department submits an online Request for Evaluation form via the Self-Service page (Administration → Forms → ESL TA Certification). The ESL Office sends the student (via the department) a letter indicating the time and place of the appropriate ESPA testing. This letter is e-mailed to departments to distribute to student mailboxes; it is not sent directly to students. Those who succeed in the ESPA test will be given information about a subsequent test called the ELPT (English Language Performance Test), which is given about two days after the SPEAK test. The ELPT test also requires about 30 minutes.

Academic Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q.  How do I register for my classes?

First, you must obtain approval from your academic advisor. You may then use your HawkID to register on MyUI, the computer system. New undergraduate students will complete the first registration as part of the Undergraduate Academic Orientation and Registration program.

Q. Who is my academic advisor?

Undergraduates: You are assigned an academic advisor during the Undergraduate Academic Orientation and Registration program.

Graduate students: You are assigned an advisor by your academic department.

Q.  Why am I blocked from registration?

You may be blocked from registration until specific requirements are met. Go to MyUI to determine if your registration is restricted. If so, MyUI will provide a phone number of the appropriate office for you to contact. The most common registration holds for new students include:



(ISSS Orientation/Check-In and Other Issues)



(English Proficiency Evaluation)

Student Health


(Immunizations and TB Testing)

Graduate School


(Official TOEFL Score)

Q. Where do I go to view the General Catalog, Academic Deadlines?

You can go to the Office of the Registrar's website to view this information.

Q. How do I get a letter stating that I am a student here?

You may request it via MyUI or visit the UI Service Center in 2700 UCC.  They can issue routine certification letters (about being enrolled at the UI, how much it costs to attend the UI, etc.).

Q. How can I change my major?

Undergraduates:  Changing majors is relatively easy. As a new student, you may request a change of major after you are on campus and meeting with your academic advisor. If you are requesting a college change, you should request an appointment with an evaluator in Undergraduate Admissions, Room 108 Calvin Hall, 319-335-1549.

Graduate students: "Changing majors" really means being admitted to a different academic department at the UI. For more information, go to Graduate & Professional Admissions, Room 115, Calvin Hall.

Employment Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q.  Where can I look for an on-campus job?

The Office of Student Financial Aid lists job openings for students. In addition, you may also review job openings on the University Human Resources website. Please note that international students are not eligible for work study positions; for off campus positions; or for positions requiring you to work more than 20 hours per week (50% appointment).

Q.  Who can apply for a social security number?

Only students who receive an offer to work on-campus for the University of Iowa may apply for a Social Security Number.

Tuition and Billing Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q.  How much is my tuition?

For information on current tuition and fees at the University of Iowa, visit the Office of the Registrar.

Q.  When do I pay my tuition (and other contracted items)?

For information on paying your university bill, go to the University Billing Office website.

Q.  Where can I find information about financial aid available for international students?

The Office of Student Financial Aid has a website that gives this information.

Health and Health Insurance Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q. Where should I go if I need to see a doctor prior to the first day of the semester?

You may schedule an appointment at Student Health and Wellness by calling 335-8394. Health information, advice, and assistance are also provided by calling 335-9704 (Nurse Line). Leave a message after listening to the recording and a nurse will return your call. Nurse Line can help you decide if you should see a doctor, instruct you how to take self-care measures, give information on prescriptions or medications and much more. Nurse Line is available during clinic hours. Messages left after hours will be returned the following day.

Q. Where should I go if Student Health and Wellness is not open and I think I need to see a doctor?

Call UI Health Access at 319-384-8442 or 800-777-8442.

Q. Where should I go if I have a medical emergency (assuming I am in the Iowa City/Coralville vicinity)?

If you have the SHIP health insurance policy offered through the University of Iowa, we recommend you go to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Emergency Treatment Center to receive the greatest financial benefit from your insurance policy. If you have the UIGRAD Care health insurance policy offered through the University of Iowa, you must go to the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics Emergency Treatment Center. Please note that a medical emergency is generally considered a medical condition that could cause death or serious complications if not treated immediately.

Q. How do I sign up for health insurance? and How do I obtain a waiver (exemption) from the UI student health insurance?

See Health Insurance for more information.

Q. Where can I learn more about the two health insurance policies offered through the University of Iowa?

ISSS Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q.  Who is my international student advisor?

There are several international student advisors in International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS).  Students are not assigned to a specific international student advisor, so you may see different advisors during separate visits. If you would like to email us, the email address is

Q.  How can I meet with an international student advisor?

The ISSS has walk-in times scheduled each week. Please call 335-0335 or review the ISSS website to find current walk-in advising hours.

Q.  What is the ISSS Update/Listserv? How do I subscribe to this listserve?

The ISSS Weekly Update/Listserv educates and informs international students regarding immigration regulations, upcoming events, financial assistance, and news from the ISSS. You are strongly encouraged to subscribe to the listserv.  Subscribe and follow the instructions on the page. When subscribing, please use your general University of Iowa e-mail account. This account, which generally will appear as follows:, will be the only e-mail account used by ISSS for all correspondence on your immigration status. You can set this e-mail account to forward to another e-mail address (such as a departmental address) if you wish.


New J-1 Students, please see the F-1 tab for Frequently Asked Questions

ISSS is privileged to assist UI departments invite international scholars from all over the world to the University of Iowa. Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about international scholars.

What is a J-1 Scholar?

A J-1 scholar is a person who comes to the university temporarily, mainly to teach, do research, or both. Some J-1 scholars are at the university for only a few days; others remain for five years. Visiting foreign scholars come to the University for academic enterprises, not for non-academic employment.  Some people who acquire J-1 status are subject to what is known as the two-year, home-country physical presence requirement.

Dependents (that is, spouses and children below the age of 21) of people in J-1 status are in a status called J-2.

J-1 scholars sometimes become admitted to the university and take classes, but that is not to be the main purpose of their stay.

What is the procedure for bringing a scholar to the UI in J-1 status?

To come to the University of Iowa as a J-1 scholar, a person in another country must first obtain a passport from his or her own government. The UI has no role in that procedure.

Second, the prospective scholar must obtain a "visa" from the United States embassy or a United States consulate in his or her own country. (Citizens and permanent residents of Canada do not need a visa to enter the United States.) To obtain a J-1 visa from an American embassy or consular post abroad, the prospective scholar must have a Form DS-2019 from the UI.

Once an academic department has made a decision to invite a scholar in J-1 status, the department must submit to International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) a Request for J-1/Exchange Visitor Status. Departments have different approaches for deciding whether to invite a visiting scholar. In most cases, a particular faculty member has an affiliation with a particular scholar who is to be invited. The International Scholar Application Form (ISAF) requires a signature from the particular UI faculty or staff member with whom the scholar will be working, and also from the department chair.

What is a J-1 visa?

A visa is a stamp in a person's passport, required (except in the case of Canadians) for people who are not U.S. citizens or permanent residents to enter the United States. The J-1 visa is intended for, among others, scholars who want to come to the States temporarily to teach in a college or university, do research, or both.

What is a"DS-2019?"

A DS-2019 is a U.S. government form that a person in another country uses to apply for a J-1 visa to come to the United States as a visiting scholar (or in some other category that does not concern us here). The UI's International Student and Scholar Services issues DS-2019s on behalf of the university. ISSS issues DS-2019s on the basis of International Scholar Application Forms submitted by UI departments.  When a DS-2019 has been prepared, ISSS sends the completed form and related information to the department so the department can express mail it to the incoming scholar if needed.

What is an "International Scholar Application Form?"

The International Scholar Application Form (ISAF) is the form International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) has created to collect the information necessary to prepare a Form DS-2019 for a person who wants to acquire a J-1 visa and enter the United States as a J-1 scholar. UI departments wanting to invite a J-1 scholar to campus should fill out an ISAF and send it to ISSS. (The prospective scholar does not need to fill out or sign the ISAF. All the immigration-related paperwork needed for a visiting foreign scholar can be done in Iowa City.)

Supplemental forms are sometimes necessary with the ISAF:

  • If the incoming scholar will be accompanied by dependents who are not United States citizens, a completed Dependent Information Supplement should accompany the ISAF.
  • If the incoming scholar is a foreign medical graduate (FMG or IMG), a completed Supplement for Foreign Medical Graduates should accompany the ISAF.

What is the two-year, home-country physical presence requirement?

The two-year, home-country physical presence requirement (for shorthand purposes usually called "212(e)," for the section of the Immigration and Nationality Act in which it appears) prevents those who are subject to it from (1) acquiring permanent resident status, (2) acquiring H-1B temporary worker status, (3) acquiring L (intracompany transferee) status, or (4) changing to any other nonimmigrant status except that of a diplomat or international organization employee until they have either returned to their country of citizenship or permanent residence and remained there for at least two years or have received a waiver of the requirement.

Notice that 212(e) does not pertain to people who want to leave the United States for a short period of time, acquire a different type of nonimmigrant visa (except H-1B or L) abroad, and re-enter.

Sec. 212(e) applies to people who are in J-1 status and who are in at least of the following sets of circumstances:

  • Their U.S. stay is supported, in whole or in part, by the government of the United States, by their own government, or by an international organization to which governments have contributed.
  • They are in a field of study whose practitioners their government has said they wish to have return to their country. (That is, their field is included in what is called the "Exchange Visitor Skills List," which was compiled by the U.S. Information Agency on the basis of requests from other governments.)
  • They are coming to the United States to participate in "graduate medical education or training," which normally means to be a resident or fellow in a teaching hospital.

ISSS has more extensive information about Sec. 212(e), including information about procedures for seeking a waiver.

Can a J-1 scholar be paid?

Scholars in J-1 status can be paid by an academic department for whatever work they do in that department. The income is taxable, unless the scholar comes from a country with which the United States has a tax treaty that exempts the scholar’s pay from income taxation. To initiate payments, the department does the normal appointment form. If the scholar is from a country that has a "tax treaty" with the United States, the scholar needs to visit the Payroll Office in USB and complete the "tax treaty form." For information about tax treaties, contact the Payroll office, 319-335-2383 or

It is also possible for visiting scholars in J-1 status to receive honoraria for lectures or consultations carried out elsewhere than the University, as long as they go through the appropriate procedures. Information about those procedures is available from any ISSS adviser or on Employment page.

Scholars in J-1 status are not permitted to work outside the department with which they are affiliated, or even in areas within that department not directly related to the purpose for which they came to the University, as stated on the Form DS-2019.

Who takes care of a visiting scholar’s health insurance?

Regulations from the Department of State require people in J-1 ( and their dependents in J-2) status to have health insurance. UI departments can purchase the scholar's health insurance if they choose. If the department will not purchase health insurance for the scholar, the scholar must purchase a plan from the University of Iowa.  J2 dependents must also be covered by a University of Iowa plan.

How long can a visiting scholar stay here?

In the normal case, a visiting scholar in J-1 status can remain in the United States for a maximum of five years.

If a J-1 scholar's initial permission to remain in the United States is valid for less than five years, then an "extension of stay" for any period up to the five-year limit can be granted. This procedure requires the department to send the ISSS a completed J-1 Extension of Stay form.

Who helps visiting scholars find housing?

Generally, the department with which a scholar is to be affiliated will help the scholar find housing. Sometimes, the nationality organization representing the scholar’s country will help. Please note that the ISSS does not have adequate staff to help visiting foreign scholars find a place to live.

What does the ISSS do for visiting foreign scholars?

ISSS prepares the Form DS-2019 a visiting scholar needs to acquire a J-1 visa. Along with that DS-2019, ISSS sends a lengthy "pre-arrival letter" with information about traveling to Iowa City, what the weather in Iowa is like, costs of housing, the location of the nearest airport, and other such logistical information. If the scholar is coming with dependents, ISSS also includes a letter authorizing those dependents to be issued J-2 visas. If the visiting scholar is a foreign-trained physician, ISSS sends a required letter concerning the terms and conditions under which that scholar will be working at the University. If the scholar has school-age children coming, ISSS sends some information from the Iowa City Community School District.