Paperwork is Easy!!!
Okay. That's an exaggeration (at least for me). Paperwork may not be easy, but it's doable at Dartmouth because there are a lot of resources to help you complete all those forms with all those super ambiguous professional phrases. I am a living example of surviving all the stresses of paperwork, from applying for my F1 visa last July to filing my taxes this term. Granted, I freaked out every single time (and will continue freaking out on paperwork in the future), but I got everything done by myself - yes, my parents will be so shocked. Here's how:
- No. 1
So international '22s, you're about to receive a very heavy package which has all the information you need to know about your F1 visa from Marcia Calloway, your visa consultant at Dartmouth. Take a deep breath (you'll need it), buy a coffee, and spare a leisurely summer morning to go through each page carefully. Marcia will probably highlight all the important categories for you, but I suggest you make your own notes of the required documents so that you won't have to keep referring to those intimidating and densely-written papers. After that, make all the calls you need and start processing. You should expect that the whole thing may even take you two to three weeks, so plan smartly and start early because you won't want to spend your entire last summer before college at home stressing over your visa. If you have questions, email Marcia; you can find her contact in the business card she attaches with the package or on the OVIS website. The best thing about Marcia is that she responds to emails very quickly, and she's one the best resources at Dartmouth for international students because she knows everything about visas and immigration. My last piece of advice is to double check all your documents carefully before you go to the visa interview or leave home for Dartmouth. Last summer, I forgot my ID card when I went to my visa interview and was almost late for my appointment (I legit almost cried because it was already late July and my traveling schedule in August was very heavy, so that day was basically my only chance to have the interview). You may feel very stressed about the visa application process, but things all work out in the end, so don't freak out too much like I did.
- No. 2
Bank account and I-9, W-4 forms and Social Security Number
In September, you'll arrive on campus and get super excited about starting classes and meeting new friends. Your inbox will be exploding with tons and tons of invitations to club meetings, events, and on-campus work opportunities. If you want to earn some extra money to satiate your online-shopping cravings (trust me), those work opportunities are perfect for you. So you'll get a job and will be looking forward to your first paycheck. But before getting paid, there is some paperwork waiting for you! First, open a bank account. There will be an information session about that during Orientation, so definitely go and ask questions! Most students on campus use Bank of America, which is right on South Main Street so it's very convenient. Make an appointment on the bank's website, then show up with your passport and I-20, and you'll have a bank account after one hour. Easy right? Next, go to the Payroll Office at 7 Lebanon Street and ask about the I-9 and W-4 forms. Your employer will email you all the necessary details, so you don't have to memorize all the details in my blog. The people at the Payroll Office will walk you through the forms super carefully, so don't panic if you don't know what to fill in in each box. The office closes at 3 p.m, and things are busy in September, so make sure you have time to get the forms done quickly. The last thing is the Social Security Number -- during Orientation, people will tell you that it isn't mandatory, but you'll need it to file your taxes in spring term, and it is mandatory to do that. OVIS has two trips to the Social Security office in the fall and possibly one in the winter, so look out for OVIS's emails (they're super important) and sign up for the trips because seats fill up quickly. Before the trip, Marcia will send you an email about necessary documents and even help you double check everything before you hop on the bus, so you shouldn't have any problem applying for an SSN.
- No. 3
File your Taxes
Around the middle of Winter term, I received a very very long email from Marcia or OVIS about filing taxes. I freaked out when I received the email, because I didn't understand anything written in all those intimidating forms. Don't be like me, and read Marcia's email carefully. She'll say that Dartmouth has purchased a tax prep app called Glacier, which basically fills out the forms for you, so tax filing is actually pretty easy at Dartmouth. It only took me half an hour to complete all the forms with the app, so phewww!
- No. 4
LSA/ FSP Visa
The last kind of paperwork that I've had to do is my visa application for my LSA+ in Japan this summer. Depending on the country of your program and your nationality, you may or may not need a visa, so I won't talk much about my Japanese visa application process specifically, but rather about how much help I received from the Guarini Institute and my program's faculty director, Professor Dorsey (he's awesome), in the past month. I had a lot of questions about this visa because unlike the F1 visa, for which I received detailed instructions from Marcia, I had to figure things out by myself this time. So first I went to the Guarini Institute office to ask them about the visa process. They didn't know much about it, but they directed me other resources (Professor Dorsey and Travisa) that I could ask for help and wrote me a confirming letter for my visa application. Travisa is a visa service that has a partnership with Dartmouth to help you apply for your visa, but personally I didn't use it because (1) it's pricey; (2) you can find out all the necessary information on the Consulate/Embassy website; and (3) you still have to do the hard work of preparing all the documents even if you use the service. So then I emailed Professor Dorsey and explained my situation, and he was a great great help. He helped me fill out some confusing parts in the application, contacted the host university in Japan and requested supporting documents for me, and even asked the AMES-DAMELL program's administrator to let me use his address to receive my documents because it was safer. My visa application process was less stressful thanks to Professor Dorsey, and I was very appreciative for what he did. So I guess my ultimate advice is that Dartmouth professors are awesome - they're always ready to help you if they can, so please don't hesitate to reach out to them if you have any questions or difficulties. My Dartmouth experience is a lot easier with the support of my professors.