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Houston Rodeo Starting From March 1

Tuesday, March 1st, 2016

 

This year’s Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo (also called Rodeo Houston) is starting on March 1st. Houston’s Rodeo is one of the largest Rodeos in the world, attracting 2.5 million attendees, and it is considered to be the city’s signature event. 

Rodeo is a fun entertainment event which typically has sports shows such as bareback riding, tie-down roping and barrel racing. It also holds concerts by world-famous different artists everyday, which attracts tens of thousands of people by itself. It also has unique events such as Bar-B-Que Contest or Rodeo Uncorked! International Wine Competition before the official start. Rice University also joined City of Houston and celebrated Rodeo Houston on Friday, February 27th with Go Texan Day where people are encouraged to dress in Western attire (boots, jeans, etc). 

Rodeo is not just for entertainment but it is also a huge agricultural business opportunity. The Houston Livestock Show is the largest one in the world. During the 2014 Show, there were more than 29,000 livestock and horse show entries recorded. Exhibitors bring everything from cattle, rabbits, sheep and goats, and they compete on the quality of their products. 

Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo is held from March 1st to March 20th in 2016 at Reliant Stadium. For more information, visit http://www.rodeohouston.com/

Let’s put on your Western clothes and go see the real cowboys!                                                                                                                                      photo

 

Filing Your Taxes

Thursday, February 25th, 2016

 

Every international student, scholar and their dependents (including spouses and children of all ages) are required to file tax if they were present in the US for any length of time in 2015. The deadline for filing your tax forms with the US government is April 18th (Mon), 2016. You must mail your completed forms and supporting documentation, as required, by that date.

OISS has purchased enough number of licenses for an online software called Glacier Tax Prep (GTP) which is designed to assist internationals (non-resident aliens for tax purpose) with tax filing. The software will be available at OISS beginning March 9th (Mon). Please stop by at OISS and sign-up for the license. You need to pay $2 license fee (cash only).

Tax filing can be confusing, but we at OISS want to do what we can to make the process easier. Below are some tips and resources for filing taxes.

Step1: Determine your Tax Residence Status

International students and their dependents on F-1/F-2 and J-1/J-2 visas are automatically considered non-resident aliens for their first 5 calendar years in the US, and scholars (and their dependents) on J visas are automatically considered non-residents for their first 2 calendar years in the US. However, there are exceptions. Substantial Presence Test will be the formula to determine if you should be taxed as a resident or nonresident alien.

If you are non-resident alien, you may use Glacier Tax Prep (GTP) software to complete the forms.  Please purchase the software license at OISS (beginning March 9th).

If you are resident alien for tax purpose, GTP unfortunately will not be able to help. You may check out IRS Free File (tax preparation software) information https://www.irs.gov/uac/Free-File:-Do-Your-Federal-Taxes-for-Free or use any software or tax filing service firms that is commonly used by U.S. citizens.

Step2: Determine if you have taxable income from U.S.

You have to report any U.S. source income including wages, scholarship, fellowship and stipend. For non-resident aliens, bank interests are not taxable.

If you did not receive any income during 2015, you may only need to complete the Form 8843.  Glacier Tax Prep software can assist you with this determination.

If you received any income during 2015, you may need to complete the Form 8843 and Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ. Glacier Tax Prep software can assist you with this determination and to complete the forms. Tax filing is not mandatory if your income is less than $4,000, however you still must complete Form 8843.

Step3: Make sure you received all the necessary supporting documents

You may receive following documents:

  •  W-2 form – You will need W-2 from each employer you had in 2015. If you worked for Rice, W-2s are available through your ESTHER account after January 31or it will be mailed to you if you are no longer with Rice.
  • 1042-S form – Foreign nationals may receive a 1042-S if they are recipients of tax treaty benefits, scholarships or fellowships from nontax treaty countries. 1042-S forms are picked up from Payroll or may be available online if you have signed up with Payroll’s FNIS

Step4: Create your tax forms

If you are non-resident alien and you have income to report, we advise you to use Glacier Tax Prep software.

The system will tell you if you owe taxes or if the government owes you a refund. If you need to pay to the government, the best option is to enclose a check with your tax documents.

If you do not have a Social Security Number (SSN), you will need to apply for ITIN and submit the application Form (W-7) together with your tax return.  For details on how to apply for ITIN, please see our website http://oiss.rice.edu/tax

Step 5: Mail your tax forms

Once you complete the forms, sign and mail them to the address below with the supporting documents (except when you are enclosing payment).

Department of the Treasury
Internal Revenue Service Center
Austin, Texas, 73301-0215

If you are applying for ITIN at the same time, you need to go to the local IRS office and submit your tax return there.

Make sure to keep copies of all your tax forms before you send.

Step 6: How to follow-up with your tax return

To check the status of your tax return, go to the IRS website https://www.irs.gov/Refunds
Please note that tax return for non-resident alien takes very long time. If there is any additional documents required, IRS will notify you by mail only. IRS would never try to reach you by phone or e-mail. Please be aware of scams and never give your Social Security Number (SSN) to anyone by phone or e-mail.

Additional resources available on the OISS website: http://oiss.rice.edu/tax

 

Letters of support for DPS – Driver’s license and Texas ID

Thursday, December 10th, 2015

Letter for DPS to verify on-campus address:

Students needing to provide evidence of residency for the purpose of applying for a Texas driver’s license or Texas ID may request supporting documentation as listed below. If you have any questions regarding letters of support for DPS, please contact OISS at 713-348-6095 or by email at oiss@rice.edu.

If you live on campus, you can request a letter of verification of your local address for the 30 day residency requirement from the Office of Housing & Dining. Please email your request to the following address:

– If you live in one of the Residential Colleges, please email David McDonald at dm7@rice.edu.
– If you live in Rice Graduate Apartments, please email gradapts@rice.edu.
– If you live in Rice Village Apartments, please email rvapts@rice.edu.
– If you live off-campus, please see a list of acceptable residency documents on the DPS website (http://www.txdps.state.tx.us/DriverLicense/).

Thank you!

OISS

 

Mandatory Address Changes in SEVIS . . .for all F and J Visa holders

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

The Student & Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP) recently completed a significant update to their SEVIS system, implementing many changes. One of the most significant updates is the verification of F-1 and J-1 local addresses. SEVIS will now reject improperly formatted, invalid, or non-compliant addresses for F-1 and J-1 visa holders.

How does this impact you? In order for you to be in proper SEVIS and immigration compliance, you must be sure your address in ESTHER is accurate and properly formatted. This address is sent to SEVIS and directly impacts your immigration compliance.

What should I do? Please login to your ESTHER account and update/verify that your information is compliant. Follow the steps below:
1) Visit http://esther.rice.edu
2) Select Personal Information
3) Select Update Addresses/Phones
4) Update Mailing Address (if Mailing Address is not an option for you, update Permanent Address) with proper USPS formatting
Tip: visit https://tools.usps.com/go/ZipLookupAction_input, enter your address in the lookup tool, and the USPS website will provide you with the proper formatting for your address.

Generally speaking, when indicating your local address (the address where you live, not your office address), please use the available fields as follows:
a. Address Line 1 = Street address – EX: 100 Main St.
b. Address Line 2 = Apartment number, Apartment complex name, Hotel name, residential college name – EX: Apt.5 or Jones College, Rm 405
c. Address Line 3 = PLEASE LEAVE EMPTY – SEVIS DOES NOT RECEIVE THIS INFORMATION
d. City = Properly spelled US city
e. State
f. ZIP = accurate 5 digit zip code
g. Phone = **Please note that all J visa holders are required to enter a valid local phone number

What happens next? We submit these updates to SEVIS on a daily basis. OISS will notify you if your information update is rejected by SEVIS, and guide you on how to correct it so that you are in valid immigration compliance. Please be sure to follow the steps above, check your formatting on the USPS website, and notify OISS of any change of address within 10 days of a move.

Thank you in advance for your compliance!

By Sandra Bloem-Curtis

Special Advanced Immigration Seminar

Thursday, August 27th, 2015

Do not miss the opportunity to hear Silvia Graves, immigration lawyer from Graves & Graves, Attorneys at Law, who will come to campus on September 30, 2015!
Topics include employment in the USA now and after your nonimmigrant status, H-1Bs, O-1s, other nonimmigrant visas, permanent residency, immigration limitations and opportunities.
Who: Speaker, Silvia Graves, Immigration Attorney from Graves & Graves, Attorneys at Law
When: Wednesday, September 30, 2015
Time: 4-5:30pm
Where: Sewall Hall 301
Mark your calendars and bring a friend to this free seminar!

Work Authorization for Off-Campus Jobs, Internships and Research

Tuesday, August 25th, 2015

By Rachel Portwood, International Advisor

Every semester OISS advisors assist many international students with authorization for positions related to their academic curricula. These work experiences range from part-time internships during the school year to jobs during academic breaks to research or full-time employment after graduation. Obtaining work authorization for F-1 and J-1 students will require some effort and preparation in advance, but the process can be pain-free if you attend one of our workshops and are diligent about following the standard procedures.

All off-campus practical training, internships, research and work experience must be approved prior to rendering services.

 What about On-Campus Work? F-1 students do not need separate authorization to work on campus in most situations. Generally speaking, on campus work up to 20 hours per week during the academic semester is permitted. However, J-1 students do require authorization for all on-campus work. Please contact OISS for details or if you are unsure if your work constitutes as “on campus.”

 What kind of Authorization do I need? Generally speaking, F-1 students will apply for CPT to work during their studies, and apply for OPT in their last semester in order to work after graduation. J-1 students need to apply for Academic Training.

Curricular Practical Training*: CPT is authorization for F-1 students to work during your degree program at Rice. You must already have a job offer in order to apply for CPT. It can be approved by OISS within a few days once you have completed the required paperwork. You will need to provide the OISS with approval from your professor/academic advisor, proof the experience is part of your curriculum, verification of your degree program, and an offer letter.  In order for your application to be processed efficiently, please note that the offer letter from your employer must contain the start and end dates of your position, how many hours per week you will work, a brief description of your duties, and the address where you will be working.

Even if you have applied for CPT before, you may wish to attend one of our workshops again as our processes have changed with tightening immigration compliance. OISS has outlined guidelines and procedures for CPT on our website at http://oiss.rice.edu/studentwork/.

Optional Practical Training*: OPT is authorization for F-1 students to work after you complete your degree program with Rice. Although you do not need to have a job offer in order to apply, OPT requires more planning than CPT since it involves an application to USCIS (U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services) and can take an average of three months to be approved. We encourage you to begin your application before you complete your Rice degree requirements – as early as 90 days before you finish. More details about the OPT process can be found on our website at http://oiss.rice.edu/studentwork/.

You might hear friends say that they received their EAD card (Employment Authorization Document) in just a few weeks, but it often takes USCIS a full three months  to process OPT applications. Without your EAD card in-hand, you may not start an OPT job (even unpaid) after graduation.

Academic Training (AT) J-1 students use Academic Training for work permission, both during and after their Rice degree programs. Please see OISS’ “J-1 Academic Training Handout” for details and make an appointment to discuss your situation with an advisor.

F-1 CPT/OPT Workshops: OISS holds 10 – 15 workshops each semester in which we discuss CPT and OPT requirements and procedures in detail. We also address staying in the U.S. beyond OPT (STEM OPT extension, H-1B, and other visa categories).

Please plan to attend a workshop before you need work authorization. Visit our website to see the most up to date information on our workshops.

 

Rice Football Clinic 2015

Tuesday, July 28th, 2015

Goooooo Owls!

Ever watch an American football game and felt completely confused?! You’re not alone! To help you learn the rules of football in a fun way, the Rice football team has offered to give the Rice International Community a special night of fun. Each attendee will also receive a free Rice football t-shirt! The event will be held on Friday, August 28th from 5:30-7:30 p.m. at the Rice Stadium.

We will start off the night with a real Texas tailgate which is an important part of sports in the US. A tailgate party is usually held at the tailgate area of a vehicle, usually a truck, which is where the name comes from. These parties include food and drinks, but are really just a great way to hang out with friends before a game. This is also a great time to paint your face, play some games, and just get pumped up about the upcoming match. While these tailgating parties were initially just for football, you’ll often see them at other sporting events as well. Most commonly, fans will sit out for a few hours before a game in the stadium parking lot grilling hot dogs or hamburgers. For those who do not have tickets to the game, they will often bring a television and watch the game in the parking lot while eating. For our event, we’ll be eating pizza. Regardless of what you eat, it is about the fun community that you build while waiting for the game to start!

After the tailgate, we’ll head into the famous R Room to learn the basics of football. We will split up into two groups: Offense and Defense. After your “lesson,” you’ll switch places to learn about the other side! That means that if you start on the Offense side, after you learn the rules of how to play on the offense, you’ll go to another room afterward to learn about how to play defense! You’ll get a chance to learn the terms, the rules, the scoring, and what to watch for in a game. If you want to get a head start to familiarize yourself with the game, take a look at the Wikipedia article here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_football.

We’ll finish up the evening by going through the Rice tunnel just like the football players! This is a rare opportunity to enjoy the field all by yourselves. Once on the field, the Rice football team will be there to run drills to show you how everything is run. You’ll get a chance to see the differences between the special teams, offense and defense are which will help clarify all the theoretical explanations from the clinic. Be sure that you wear very comfortable shoes because we’ll be running in the grass, throwing footballs, and learning fancy footwork!

If you would like to join us, you must RSVP here: SITE IS CLOSED.  See you next year!

Only the first 200 to RSVP will be allowed in.


~Andy Meretoja, OISS

 

Rice Travel Opportunities

Monday, September 17th, 2012

OISS was fortunate enough to have Dan Stypa, Assistant Director of Alumni Affairs, join us for some great travel opportunities for the Rice population!  Two programs may be particularly useful for you as you plan to explore the world: 1) The Rice Alumni Travel program, and 2) Vacation Travel Opportunities.  These opportunities are partnered through Contiki Vacations and offer us the ability to partake in amazing adventures.  Please see the information below and feel free to contact Dan for more information!

 

Rice Alumni Travel Program (not just for alumni!!)

The Rice Alumni Travel program brings young alumni and students a new opportunity to explore the globe, experience new cultures, ancient art , historic sites, delicious cuisine, thrilling adventures and authentic self-discovery all while making long lasting friendships.

We are excited to partner with Contiki Vacations, the worldwide leader in travel for 18-35 year olds. With more than 200 trips to choose from in Europe, Australia, New Zealand, North America, South America, Asia, Russia and Egypt, traveling with Contiki means you’ll share an amazing journey with alumni and travelers your age from all over the world.

When you plan your next trip with the Rice Alumni Travel program, the choices are limitless. With trips ranging from three days to more than a month, you are sure to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience.

To learn all about the trips expertly designed for young alumni and students 18-35 years old available throughout 2013, visit Contiki’s website at www.contiki.com. If you have any questions, please contact the Rice Alumni Travel program at 713-348-5094 or Contiki at 866-652-4483 or email alumni@contiki.com.

It’s time to embark on an education beyond the classroom and workplace. You deserve it!

 

Vacation Travel Opportunities (especially great for Winter and Summer Break!)

Short Trips/Weekend Getaways for Winter Break

$275                       LA Explorer, 3 days: Operates daily

$429                       LA Explorer, 5 days: same as above, but 5 days

$855                       New York Uncovered, 4 days: December 18-21

$1265                    New York New Year, 4 days: December 30-Jan 2

$749                       Las Vegas New Year, 4 days: December 30-Jan 2

$749                       Miami New Year, 4 days: December 30- Jan 2

 

Motorcoach tours for Winter Break

$1065                    California Highlights, 8 days: December 18-25

$1885                    Southern Adventure, 13 days: December 13-25

$1995                    Costa Rica Unplugged, 12 days: December 15-26

 

Short trips/weekend getaways for Spring Break

$275                       LA Explorer, 3 days: Operates daily

$429                       LA Explorer, 5 days: same as above, but 5 days

$855                       New York Uncovered, 4 days: February 26-March 1

 

*all prices above based on double occupancy, plus airfare and applicable taxes

 

Rice International B-Ball Team Mirrors University’s Internationalization Efforts

Friday, March 2nd, 2012

Evidence of Rice’s recent years of international expansion efforts, as a result of the Vision for the Second Century’s (V2C) goals, are seen, felt, and experienced throughout the campus daily. Almost one in every five students walking across campus is a student from another country (including total populations of graduate and undergraduate students).  Everyone at Rice has a chance for a cross-cultural opportunity at their front doorstep.

The Houston Chronicle’s Sports front page story about the international athletes that are on the Rice basketball team also describes how the players enjoy the diverse perspectives and traditions that they learn from one another. But their uniting force is their dedication to the game. As in any international experience, shared goals can override any differences.

Whether it is in the classroom, the lab, a student club, a volunteer opportunity, or on the court, international students at Rice, interacting with our domestic students, create a rich environment for learning global perspectives and expanding one’s international experience.

Rice is so fortunate to have so many students from other countries here, and we have truly enjoyed the unique opportunities to learn from the international athletes who come to our country and school with so many incredible talents, and share them with all of us. Way to go Rice basketball team! Way to go Owls! Way to go international students who are part of our Rice community!

 

How To Carve a Pumpkin!

Monday, October 31st, 2011

Here’s an illustrated guide on how to carve the most amazing pumpkin for Halloween, courtesy of our FISS Pumpkin Carving event.

 

Step 1: Choose a pumpkin. Any pumpkin. It should be orange and relatively round, but size is up to you. Bigger ones are better if you decide to use a template from a pumpkin carving kit (more details about this in step 5), but if you’re creative and carve by hand, a smaller one will also look very nice. The most important thing is that you are willing to fully commit to the pumpkin you choose.

 

Step 2: Get a big, sharp knife. The sharper the better, since this is where you will attack your pumpkin and cut out the top of your pumpkin. Remember that the top will go back and serve as a lid on your completed pumpkin, so it is a good idea to cut it at an angle. For a more professional look, you can cut the top into a special shape, like a zigzag, but any old hole on top will do.

 

Step 3: Clean your pumpkin. This part can get a bit messy, but don’t let it bother you. Just stick your hand in there and get everything out! The more thorough you are at this point equals how long you will be able to enjoy your pumpkin: the more stuff you leave inside, the sooner your pumpkin will begin to spoil and go bad. Remember that you can use the pumpkin seeds for cooking or baking!

 

Step 4: Now, if you didn’t make the hole big enough during step 2, you might get into trouble during step 3 and get your hand stuck inside the pumpkin while clearing out the seeds! Do try to get your hand out without making the hole bigger now, because otherwise your lid will no longer fit on top of the pumpkin. If all else fails, cut yourself free and tell everyone that your pumpkin got scalped!

 

Step 5: Choose an image to carve on your pumpkin. Creative people can carve their own designs, but pumpkin carving kits often have helpful templates that you can use. Either tape your template to the pumpkin or have a friend hold it, while you trace the edges of the picture with a sharp tool.

 

Step 6: Remove the template and, based on the tracing you just did, cut the edges of the pictures all the way through with an even sharper tool. Now you should be able to get out the pieces, after which you can see about making the edges a little nicer and more polished. Remember that Halloween pumpkins are supposed to look scary, so it doesn’t matter if your image is a little rough around the edges.

 

Step 7: Pose for pictures and show off your amazing pumpkin with pride!!

                                                         

If you would rather not use quite so many sharp tools, you can always use paint and other decorations to create an awesome pumpkin!

 

 


HAPPY HALLOWEEN!!

~Written by Andy Meretoja, International Department Coordinator

 
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