Frequently Asked Questions

Important Information

What are some laws I need to know?

The following is a short list of important laws:

  • You must know the law. Not knowing the law does not relieve you of responsibility.
  • The American Bill of Rights mandates that all residents of the United States are equal under the law; racism and sexism are not acceptable.
  • All U.S. laws apply equally to international students. There is no immunity.
  • A signature is legally binding. Read everything completely before you sign.
  • You must be at the age of 21 or over to drink alcohol. If you are under 21 years of age and are intoxicated, you may be arrested.
  • Drunkenness is not acceptable in the U.S. It is a serious crime to drive while you are drunk no matter what age you are. In Nevada, you will be put in jail if you drink and drive (DUI-Driving Under the Influence).
  • It is a serious crime to use, possess, sell, or manufacture controlled substances such as marijuana, cocaine, crack, etc.
  • You must be 21 to gamble.
  • Fighting is punishable by law.
  • Seatbelts must be worn by the driver and all passengers at all times when in a car.
  • In the state of Nevada, it is the law that motorcycle riders must wear helmets.
  • Bicycle riders must follow the same traffic laws as automobile drivers.
  • Pedestrians have the right of way when crossing the street. If you are driving a vehicle, you must stop for someone crossing the street. When you are walking, remember you always need to use crosswalks.

Do you have any advice on travel for F-1 students?

For those of you who will travel outside of the U.S., we would like to offer the advice below. If you are traveling inside the US, it is wise to follow the same advice EXCEPT you do NOT need a valid visa stamp in your passport when traveling inside the US. If you are traveling, please read the following carefully:

  1. You must have a valid visa to get back into the U.S. if you are traveling outside the U.S., it must be in the F-1 category (if you are an F-1). Please check your passport. If your visa is NOT valid, or if it is in a B or other category and you changed your visa inside the USA, you must report to an American Embassy or Consulate outside the U.S. when you travel outside, in order to apply for a new visa to re-enter the country.
    NOTE: As of November, 2001, it is not possible to get a visa in Canada or Mexico if you are not a native of the country. In addition, it will take at least 20 days to clear any new visas from countries in the Middle East. If you need to apply for a new visa, please feel free to request our advice.
  2. Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months into the future (for example, on December 1, 2001, your passport must be valid until June 1, 2002, or longer). If your passport is expired or will expire within the next 6 months, it is risky to travel. It is also important to contact your consulate and get it extended as soon as possible! Call the IELC for help.
  3. You must have your I-20 visa document signed for travel by a counselor at the IELC. Failure to get the document signed could have serious consequences under current security procedures. In addition, we cannot sign your visa document unless you have enrolled full-time.
  4. Under the current situation, we think the following additional items will make travel easier: a current IELC transcript, showing full-time enrollment throughout your time in the US; a student ID card; a health insurance card; proof of funds to be in the US without working illegally; proof of employment authorization if you are working off-campus; finally, if for some reason you have been issued more than one I-20 over time (you have transferred from other schools in the USA, have old-style I-20's and new SEVIS I-20's,) please carry all visa documents that have ever been issued to you by any school or program with you at all times, to prove your continuous legal stay in the US.

Please talk to an advisor at IELC or OISS with any travel concerns. We are here to help!

What is the Reno area like?

The University is located just north of downtown Reno, Nevada. With a combined population of approximately 264,000, the Reno/Sparks area offers a small-city atmosphere with big-city opportunities. Called the "Biggest Little City in the World," Reno's downtown area offers a wide variety of entertainment options not normally found in a city of this size.

The climate is cool and dry, with four distinct seasons. Temperatures average 7 degrees C. in winter and 32 degrees C. in summer.

Located only 15 minutes from the California border, Reno is surrounded by mountains, and the area is noted for a wide variety of recreational opportunities. Rand McNally rates Reno/Tahoe as "the number one place in America for outdoor fun."

Reno began as a crossing for westbound pioneers and became a mining town after the discovery of silver. Nevada became the first state to legalize gambling.

Reno/Tahoe Climate: Due to elevation and geographical variation, Reno/Tahoe's climate varies by location within the area. The Reno area receives very little precipitation, with an average of 1" (2.54 centimeters) per month. Snowfall in the winter can average 6" per month, with most snow falling in the Tahoe area December through February. Reno/Tahoe enjoys over 300 days of sun every year.

Highways and major roads are plowed and sanded as necessary for safe driving conditions and access to ski resorts. Auto travelers are advised to carry tire chains during winter. The major television and radio stations report on the road conditions of major roads and highways. There are also several numbers you may call to determine road conditions:

Nevada Department of Transportation Road Reporting Service
24 hours Toll Free 1-(877)687-6237
California Department of Transportation Road Reporting Service
24 hours Toll Free 1-(800)427-7623

What to Wear: Reno/Tahoe enjoys warm, dry days in spring, summer, and early fall. Winters are crisp, with sunshine most days. Sweaters or light jackets are recommended for summer evenings. Casual dress is the accepted fashion for daytime activities. Northern Nevada can be cold due to its high elevation. Therefore, warm winter apparel is necessary. Lake Tahoe: Lake Tahoe is a one hour drive from Reno. Tahoe is approximately 22 miles (35.41 kilometers) long, 12 miles (19.31 kilometers) wide, and 1,000 feet (304.8 meters) deep. Lake Tahoe provides an abundance of recreational activities including: sailing, swimming, hiking, water skiing, scuba diving, and sun bathing. Equipment rental is available through local vendors for both winter and summer activities.

Virginia City: This historic landmark was a booming mining town, particularly known for its "Comstock" and "Bonanza" silver lodes in the mid-1800's. The downtown area features historic houses and buildings situated in the original fashion. Driving time: 45 minutes/24 miles/38.63 kilometers.
Nevada City: Nevada City, once the governmental seat of this region of California in the mid-1800's, is an historic landmark and features several blocks of Victorian style buildings with a variety of stores and restaurants. Driving time: 90 minutes.

Truckee: Truckee is a railroad town in the Sierra Nevadas, Truckee has a variety of shops and restaurants and offers a view of the old west. Driving time: 45 minutes/30 miles/48.28 kilometers.
Carson City: Carson City is the capital of Nevada and has a variety of museums and governmental buildings of interest. Driving time: 45 minutes/30 miles/48.28 kilometers.

Pyramid Lake: Pyramid Lake lies on the Paiute Indian Reservation and dates back to prehistoric times. This extraordinary lake contains species of fish that are not found anywhere else. Driving time: 50 minutes/33 miles/53.11 kilometers.

Bank Accounts

One of the first things you should do after arriving in Reno is open an account in a local bank. To open an account, banks require you to provide proof of identification, and to have a local mailing address.

A checking account allows the convenience of paying for goods without having to carry cash with you. Please bring travelers' checks with you for the first few days of your stay in the U.S. Cash advances are also available through all major credit cards and ATM cards.

Both Bank of America and Wells Fargo Bank have ATMs on the University of Nevada, Reno campus. The IELC has arranged for representatives from Wells Fargo Bank to come to the new student orientation every semester for an information and sign-up session.

If you choose to open a bank account with Wells Fargo, please consider the following:
College Combo
A low-cost checking account designed especially with college students in mind.

  • Opening deposit of only $25
  • Free with a monthly direct deposit to your account, or free for five years if your parent banks with Wells Fargo.
  • No minimum balance required
  • One-time service fee refund with your Stuff Happens™ card1
  • Free Online Banking with Bill Pay
  • Free Check Card with Total Security Protection™
  • Easy and unlimited access to your funds using Wells Fargo ATMs, Online Banking and Banking by Phone
  • Free unlimited teller access
  • Automatic check safekeeping
  • Overdraft protection available
  • Your parents can deposit funds into your account

When you set up an account, do not deposit all of your money; keep enough money out (to live for about 10 days), until you receive your ATM card and checks (usually takes a week).
For further information, please consult a Wells Fargo representative.

How do I write a check?

  1. Date the check.
  2. Type or write the name of the person or firm to whom the check will be payable.
  3. Enter the amount of the check (in figures) opposite the dollar sign.
  4. Write the amount of the check (in words) under the PAY TO THE ORDER OF line.
  5. Start at the left margin.
  6. Sign your name on the bottom line EXACTLY as it appears on the bank signature card.
  7. Memo line to record what the payment is for.

Where can I buy groceries near campus?

  • Raley's on the corner of Keystone Avenue and West 7th Street
  • Albertson's in Keystone Square Shopping Center on the corner of Keystone Avenue and West 5th street
  • Walgreens on the corner of North Virginia Street and East Maple Street
  • Reno Asian Market on the corner of West 5th Street and Vine Street

Other Questions

How can I get an official IELC grade report?

If you need an official IELC Grade Report/Transcript, please complete the grade report/transcripts request form.

Where can I take TOEFL exam? How can I register?

Online registration is the easiest method. Registration is available 3-4 months before the test date. Register early as seats fill up quickly.

What is the weather like in Reno?

Reno has a mild, dry climate with four distinct seasons. The summer months (June-August) are typically hot and dry and the winter months (November-February) are cold and snowy. However, nights in the summer are cool and you may need to wear a sweater or jacket sometimes. It does not rain very often; however, there are some occasional summer and spring storms. The air is very dry and students are recommended to drink plenty of water during the day. Also if you have sensitive we recommend that students use moisturizing creams on a daily basis. In the winter there is a lot of snowfall that remains on the ground for many days and you will need winter clothing to keep warm.

What should I bring from my home country?

You must be aware that the voltage and current used in the U.S. is different from many countries (120V, 60Hz). Therefore many electrical devices such as hair dryers, electric shavers, electric kitchen devices, etc., will not work correctly in the U.S. To use these items in the U.S. you will have to purchase a voltage/current converter. However these devices can be very costly and have limited amounts of power consumption. In such cases it is advisable to leave those items at home and purchase new ones when you arrive in the U.S. Other items such as notebooks and digital cameras will work in the U.S. but you may have to purchase some plug adapters when you arrive in order to connect them to an outlet. If you are staying in the dormitories, you will need to bring or purchase linens, pillows and blanket.

Driver's License

How can I get a Nevada Driver License?

What you must take with you to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV):

  • Passport
  • Visa Document
  • I-94 card (small white card stapled in your passport)
  • I-20 or DS-2019
  • Previous licenses or ID's

What will the test be like?

If you have never been licensed in the United States, you will have to take vision, written and driving skills tests.

Can I make an appointment for the knowledge (written) test?

No. You must go to the DMV in person. The knowledge test is given on a "first come, first serve" basis. Once you have completed the knowledge test, you will receive an instruction permit.

Can I make an appointment for the driving test?

You can schedule for the driving test when you pass the knowledge test. Also, you can make an appointment by phone (775) 684-4368 or online DMV Website Scheduler

Where can I get a Driver’s Handbook?

You can pick up a free paper comp at the local DMV or you can get a free copy online  (78 pages to print.)

Does the DMV provide a car for the driving skills test?

No. You must bring a vehicle to take the test. The examiner will perform a safety inspection on your vehicle and check its registration and insurance. You do not have to use your own vehicle, but you must have a vehicle in the same license class as you are applying for. You may not use a rental car. Vehicles must be properly registered and insured.

How much does it cost?

$41.25 for a Driver's License
$21.25 for a Nevada Identification Card
$25 for the Initial Knowledge and Skills Test (written test)
The DMV accepts cash, checks, money orders, and major debit and credit cards.

What is a Nevada ID Card?

This is an identification card with your picture and information on it. It can be used as legal identification in the United States for proof of age, but not for driving a vehicle. In many cases such as cashing a check at the bank, it can be used instead of a passport for identification purposes. The minimum age for an ID card is 10 years. If you have a driver license you do not need an ID card.

Do I need a Social Security number to get a license or ID card?

Non U.S. Citizens who have applied for, but not received, a Social Security number may attest to this on the driver license application. They are not required to provide proof of a Social Security number.

Can my dependent get a drivers license or ID card?

(F-2 or J-2 wife/husband/child) Yes, they must bring the documents listed above. They can get a drivers license or ID card without a social security number, the DMV will use their passport number.

How often is the driver’s license renewed?

The license is valid for 8 years unless immigration documents provide for an earlier expiration date. You will need to go to the DMV in person or stop by a DMV kiosk to review your license, but you will not need to take the written and driving tests again.

Can I buy my own car while in the US?

DMV Location and Contact information:
Department of Motor Vehicles
305 Galletti Drive
Reno, Nevada 89512
Phone (775) 688-2368
Directions from university: Go down N. Virginia Street and turn left onto E 4th Street. Follow E. 4th Street until it intersects with Galletti Drive (look for sigYes. If you have a Nevada Driver License or an International Driver License you can purchase a car for personal transportation. You must register your vehicle at the DMV with the title of the vehicle, proof of emissions test and insurance. You may be required to provide additional information and payment for registration will depend on the year and make of the car. To find out more about this process, visit Buy or sell a used car and/or a used book

Where is the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV)?

DMV Location and Contact information:
Department of Motor Vehicles
305 Galletti Drive
Reno, Nevada 89512
Phone (775) 688-2368
Directions from university: Go down N. Virginia Street and turn left onto E 4th Street. Follow E. 4th Street until it intersects with Galletti Drive (look for signs directing you to the DMV). Turn right onto Galletti Drive, go about 1 kilometer. The DMV will be on your right. (Bus 11 from CitiCenter can drop you off about 2 blocks away near the corner of 4th/Prater and Galletti Streets.) For more information about driver's licenses and car registration, please visit Nevada DMV website at

Are there any alternate forms of transportation?

Reno is a relatively small community, and almost every service is available within walking distance of the University. However, there may be times you will want to see other parts of town, or you may want to visit a nearby city. Reno has a good city bus system that serves almost every part of town. If you would like to go to San Francisco for the weekend, or just about anywhere in the United States, City-to-City bus lines offer reasonable rates. AMTRAK, the American Train System, offers regular service to San Francisco for about $110.00-$150.00 round trip, depending on time of year and availability. They also offer service nationwide. MegaBus is a bus service that offers reasonable rates to those who book early, with fares starting at $1. They have routes from Reno to San Francisco and Los Angelos with on-board WiFi and restrooms.

Working In the United States

Can an international student work in the U.S.?

An international student using an F-1 or a J-1 visa document issued by UNR can work but there are many restrictions. Eligibility to work is based on full-time student status. International students generally hold either F-1 (student) or J-l (exchange ~visitor, scholar) visas while studying in the United States. F-1 and J-1 students in good standing are eligible for any on-campus employment at their university while they are enrolled. They can work up to 20 hours a week during the semester and up to 40 hours a week during breaks.

Where can I find a job on-campus?

Many departments or offices on-campus publish job-openings on flyers that are posted on bulletin boards across campus. Another good source for jobs is the career development's job web site You must be registered as a student at the University of Nevada, Reno to sign up and create a login and password. Then you may use the search engine to find on-campus jobs. International students may not be eligible for all of the jobs posted. You must make sure that you are eligible for the work position before applying. Also, you may be required to provide additional information such as a resume or letter. It is the student's responsibility to provide all required information and go through the application process. The work schedule depends on the job; however, you may not work during IELC class hours.

Can I work off-campus?

F-1 students in good standing are only allowed to work on-campus at the university they are attending. J-1 students may be allowed to work off campus, but many restrictions apply. See the J-1 Work Authorization site for more information.

If a student is interested in working on-campus, it is his/her responsibility to find a job and apply for it. More information about On Campus jobs can be found at Human Resources: Student Employment.

Do I need a social security number to work on campus?

Yes. Students working on campus must have a social security number. In order to obtain the number refer to the social security FAQ section. If the employer is ready to hire the student for a job and the student does not have the social security number, the university payroll office will issue a temporary number while he/she applies for a permanent social security number. Once the international student has applied for their social security card and receives confirmation, the hiring department or international student can request a temporary number from the Payroll Office. This temporary number will be released to the employing department and can be used to complete the hiring paperwork, but it can only be used for 12 weeks. The employer should update the paperwork once the social security card is received

I am an international student and I do not know if I need to submit a tax return?

Everyone residing in the U.S. needs to submit some form of tax return (including international students)! If you have not earned any money or received any scholarship, it is very simple. Otherwise, it can be very complicated. However, the Office of International Students and Scholars (OISS) at UNR offers workshops in February and March each year to help international students and faculty learn a bit about their tax obligations.

Social Security Number

What is a Social Security Number?

A social security number is used to track payroll taxes in the USA. Many schools, businesses and organizations may use this number to identify you. It is not necessary to have a social security number in the USA if you do not want to work. At the IELC, your Student I.D. number ('R' number) can be used for all identification purposes, except for work. Download instructions on obtaining a social security number.

What will I need to apply for a social security number?

  • Passport
  • I-20
  • I-94 card (small white card stapled in your passport)
  • Letter from IELC showing that you are a full-time student and authorized to work on campus

Who can apply?

  • Anyone authorized to work in the USA
  • Those on F-1 visas ONLY if they have an employment offer and the required authorization for the employment
  • Resident Aliens (those with a 'green card')
  • US Citizens

Who can NOT apply?

  • Anyone not authorized to work in the USA
  • Students attending on a B-1 or B-2 Tourist/Visitor visa
  • Those who entered the USA on a Visa Waiver (you have a green I-94 W card)

How long does it take to get a Social Security number?

Approximately 15 - 20 business days. It will come to the mailing address you wrote on the application. If you have not received it within 25 days, come to the IELC office and we will help you track it. It is best to apply for a social security card immediately upon obtaining a job offer. It will be necessary to personally visit a Social Security Administration Office to apply.

Now that I have my card, what do I do?

  • Sign it with your usual signature
  • Do not laminate it
  • Bring it to the IELC office so we can photocopy it and update your University records
  • Notify your bank of your new number, they need it for your checking and other account information
  • If you live in the dormitory, show it to the Residential Life and Housing office

Oh no! My name is not spelled correctly!

You must apply for a new card. The new card will have the same number, but your name will be spelled correctly. It is important that your name on your passport and the name on your social security card be spelled exactly the same.

Oh no! I lost my card!

You must apply for a new card. The new card will have the same number.

Health and Medical Assistance

Will I have access to health services in the US?

All international students at University of Nevada, Reno are required to pay the health center fee and supplemental health insurance plan. If you would like to know the costs, see our "dates and fees" web page.

I don’t have my immunization records what do I do?

Please review "Health Screening and Immunization" for complete information on vaccinations. It is recommended that you receive required immunizations in your home country before arriving. If you have the vaccinations done at the Student Health Center, it costs approximately $150.00 if all immunizations are needed (two MMR doses on or after the students first birthday and one TD within the last 10 years). If you plan to live in the dormitories, the Meningococcal Vaccination is also required (ages 22 and under). It costs an additional $95.00. There may also be an additional $50.00 charge for tuberculosis diagnosis (which requires a blood draw.)  All students are required to obtain health clearance from the Student Health Center, which is located on campus, prior to attending classes.

Please have your doctor complete the Immunization Requirements for International Students Form or you can provide a copy of your immunizations in English, if possible. Email the  Immunization Requirements for International Students Form or your immunization records to Please also bring a copy with you when you arrive.

Where do I go if I have a health problem?

If it is not an emergency, the first place you should go is the University of Nevada Student Health Center. The health center fee will give you access to this center. This is not a hospital but you will be able to see a nurse and/or doctor. The health center can take care of most issues.

What if I have an accident?

 If you have a serious problem such as an accident or you feel ill enough to require emergency assistance you can go to the hospital. If it is an emergency call 911. Your supplemental insurance plan will not cover 100% of the costs, but it will cover a significant amount. Please visit for more information on the Health Insurance policy. .If you have questions about the insurance, please contact the Student Health Center at 784-6598.

Bank Accounts

Can I obtain a bank account while in the USA?

Yes, it is not mandatory, but we recommend it for students that will be staying for longer periods of time obtain a bank account. Bank of America offers checking accounts to international students free of charge. Many other banks may also offer free bank accounts.

How do I obtain a Bank Account?

During the new student orientation, you may sign up to be taken with other new students to Bank of America to set up an account. You may also go on your own to any bank and ask if you are eligible for a bank account

What are the benefits of having a Bank Account?

You may use it to deposit personal money safely, and make smaller withdrawals from ATM machines. In some cases your family may also wire funds to you directly to the bank account from your home country. You will also be given a check book that may be used for purchases. Also, a bank account helps create and build good "credit history" for you in the United States. If you plan on purchasing a car, cell phone etc, it will help to have a good credit history. A good credit history also allows you to obtain additional benefits with financial institutions in the US. After a period of time holding a bank account in good standing in the US, many banks may offer you additional services such as credit cards or savings accounts. You must also be aware that irresponsible use of the bank account will result in a bad "credit history".

I am ready to return to my home country, what should I do with my bank account?

If you are not planning to return to the US in the near future, you should always close any accounts with the bank or other financial institution. Before closing your account you will need to make sure that all pending transactions have been processed and cleared. This will avoid any problems if you decide to return to the US in the future. If you leave any unpaid debts when you leave the US, you may have serious problems when you return.


I am coming to the IELC, where do I live?

There are many housing options at University of Nevada, Reno. The first is the University student dormitories. The University has seven on-campus dormitories with option ranging from double rooms to apartment style living. You must sign up for housing ahead of time, before you arrive in order to make sure that you have a room reserved for you. See more info at Residential Life, Housing and Food Services. You may also find rooms or apartments for rent near campus at reasonable rates. It is your responsibility to find appropriate housing for yourself. However, at our offices we may help guide you in order to find housing information. To see more information on off-campus apartments see our Apartment List.

I am arriving soon and I don’t have a place to stay.

If you arrive early you may have to arrange for temporary housing until the dormitory is ready to accept new students or until you find an apartment. There are many hotels around campus and at downtown Reno. The IELC can assist you in reserving a room. Please contact us for assistance at .

Where do I find off-campus housing?

It is important to know that many private renters require you to sign contracts for 6 to 12 months. If you are coming for a shorter period of time, it may be difficult to find off-campus housing. In such cases we recommend housing at the University dormitories. Otherwise, it is advisable to stay in a hotel during your search for rooms and apartments.