Living in the Rio Grande Valley

Identification Documents

  • Social Security Card
  • Texas Driver License
  • Applying for a Social Security Card

    We recommend that you wait 10 business days after entering the United States and 3 business days after completing the onboarding at Human Resources and Immigration Services to apply for a Social Security Number. You must apply in person at a local Social Security office. Generally, all UTRGV employees (H-1B, TN, O-1, etc.) are automatically eligible to apply for a SSN.

    The following documents are required of all internationals to apply for a Social Security card:

    Additional documents:

    • H-1B or O1 employees: Form I-797

    For additional information, visit the Social Security Administration’s website: Documents needed – select “noncitizen” on the right-hand side.  Remember that you are not a “student” for U.S. immigration purposes.

    Application Receipt

    Upon application for a social security card, a receipt will be issued. Usually the card will be mailed in approximately three weeks.

    Social Security Offices

    The nearest Social Security Office is on 3004 N McColl Rd., McAllen, Texas 78501. It is open Monday through Friday from 9:00am through 4:00pm.  To check on opening hours and other offices and services, visit their website or call (800) 772-1213.

  • Texas Driver License

    The State of Texas’s Department of Public Safety recognize driving privilege reciprocity. Driving privilege reciprocity allows a person to use a valid, unexpired foreign license to operate a motor vehicle in Texas for up to one year or until a person becomes a Texas resident, whichever date is sooner. Once a person becomes a new Texas resident, they must apply for a Texas license within 90 days to continue to drive legally. For more information, please review the Moving to Texas page.

    The Department of Public Safety (DPS) requires a written test and a road test. No appointment is necessary for the written test, but an appointment and a car are required for the road test.

    Scholars in H-1B, TN, and O-1 statuses must have a social security number in order to apply for a license. Dependents must either show proof of ineligibility by getting a denial letter from the Social Security Administration or apply for a number, if eligible prior to applying for a license.
    Temporary permits can be renewed until the card is received.

    For DPS locations or more information call (800) 777-0133 or visit the DPS website.

    Please Note: The DPS is often crowded, so allow ample time to complete the process.

    State ID for Non-Drivers

    The DPS will issue a non-driver’s identification (ID) card. This is a very convenient form of identification, since a passport is not always recognized for local transactions such as cashing checks or admission to an establishment where alcohol is served. The same documents are needed as if applying for a driver’s license and USCIS will have to confirm I-94 status in the United States. A temporary identification card will be issued.

    Campus Identification Card

    Get your ID card at any of these locations:

    Edinburg:

    Academic Services Building, 1st Floor 
    1201 West University Drive
    Edinburg, Texas 78539

    Brownsville:

    Library
    1 West University Boulevard
    Brownsville, Texas 78520



Transportation

  • Driving

    If driving is the best option for you, here are some helpful tips and information to make your drive smooth and safe:

    Texas Department of Transportation - Driver

    Campus Parking Information - Parking and Transportation Services

  • Community Alternatives - Buses and UTRGV Shuttles

    Vaquero Express - Parking & Transportation Services operates bus service on the Brownsville and Edinburg campuses through the Vaquero Express Campus Shuttle. The two campuses are connected through the Vaquero Express Connector Shuttle. The system operates Monday through Friday. In addition, all services offered by the University are FREE to use. Download our Transportation Guide for more information, schedules, and maps.

    Valley Metro - The Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council provides public transportation in urbanized and non-urbanized areas of the lower Rio Grande Valley through its transit department, Valley Metro.

    BikeShare Rio Grande Valley - Parking & Transportation Services has partnered with the cities of Brownsville and Harlingen to bring a regional bikeshare program to the Rio Grande Valley. Operated by Zagster, the service features 85 cruiser bikes, with 45 bikes stationed at the Brownsville, Harlingen, and Edinburg campuses for students, faculty, and staff. Bikes are easily checked out through an app available on Android or iOS. The annual fee is $35. It’s a great way to get around campus, exercise, or help the environment.



Housing

  • Housing Information

    UTRGV's Department of Housing and Residence Life  

    Leases

    A lease is a written legal contract in which the renter agrees to make rental payments for a specified period of time. The advantage is that a six-month or one-year lease guarantees that the price of rent will not be raised during that time period. In contrast, renting month-to-month allows the flexibility to move out with 30 days’ notice. If planning to stay in the apartment for six months or more, a lease is a good idea. A person who signs a lease and moves out before the lease ends will probably be liable to pay a penalty, possibly all rental payments for the remainder of the lease time.

    A lease also details the rights and responsibilities of both the renter and the landlord. It is important you read your lease carefully before signing it to better understand your rights and responsibilities. Examples of some of the items contained in the lease are:

    • the date rent is due and which methods of payment are acceptable
    • restrictions on painting and other alterations to the property
    • the guarantees the landlord makes to the renter to ensure safety and well-being

    If either party violates the lease, there are usually penalties. For the renter, penalties can range from a warning, to a fine, to an eviction. For a landlord, violating the lease can sometimes mean the renter can leave without penalty. Rental law in Texas can be very complex and ambiguous.

    Tenant Rights

    Texas tenant rights

    Utilities

    City of Edinburg

    City of McAllen

    City of Brownsville

    City of Harlingen

    Telephone

    Cell Phone Service

    In order to activate cell phone service in the United States, it is helpful for customers to have a valid social security number and an established credit history. Customers without these things can still activate service but may be subject to a security deposit at the time of application. The security deposit ranges from $150 to $500, depending on the service provider. This security deposit will be returned customers as stipulated in the cell phone contract.

    Service contracts may last for one or two years and early termination fees may apply. Prepaid and no-contract plans are also available. Purchase cell phones or sign up for cell phone services at shopping malls or provider branches. If you would like to utilize a free resource to check availability of internet, cable, and telephone providers in their area and compare prices, visit Broadband Experts.

    Below is a list of major U.S. cell phone service providers:



English Language Programs

  • English Language Information

    UTRGV Language Institute

    The Language Institute provides English and other language instruction to students, professionals, and the community; enhances students’ ability to participate and integrate successfully in the American culture; and academically prepares students to pursue a degree at an American university. The Language Institute is committed to achieve this mission by continuously enhancing the quality of our service and constantly innovating teaching methodologies. We are dedicated to helping students fulfill academic, professional and personal goals.



Taxes



Safety and Security

  • Safety and Security Information

    Safety is a common concern for international visitors. U.S. movies shown around the world display an unrealistic amount of violence. Because of these and other media depictions of life in general in the U.S., many international visitors have unnecessary heightened concerns about safety. It is, however, necessary to be careful about safety anywhere.

    Basic keys to safety in unfamiliar places are knowledge and prevention. With sufficient knowledge about how to protect yourself and your property, and how to avoid taking unnecessary risks, it is possible to better prevent being a victim of crime. Common sense safety behaviors include these precautions.

    In the event of an emergency (medical, crime, or fire)

    Call 911 You can dial 911 from any phone. 911 is the nationwide emergency number. Be ready to report details, beginning with the nature of the emergency and the exact location (address)

    Crime Prevention

    • Never carry large sums of money. Never tempt a thief by displaying money in public. All large amounts of money brought from your home country should be deposited in a bank shortly after arriving in the USA.

    • Never leave valuable things visible in a car. Items like luggage, money, cellphones, computers, and other electronics are tempting to criminals and easy to steal. If needed, hide valuables in the trunk of the car.

    • There are pickpockets in any large city in the world. Pickpockets are skilled at identifying vulnerable people who may be displaying valuables, and then coming close enough to steal the valuables without being noticed. Handbags should be kept closed; wallets should be protected. Bags or backpacks left unattended may be stolen.

    • Report any incidents of robbery or harassment on campus to the Campus Police by using the courtesy phones located around campus. Call 911 for EMERGENCIES whether on-campus or off- campus.

    • Some areas of RGV are safer than others. Check with friends about the areas to avoid. There is a difference in Day Safety and Night Safety: some places are safe during daylight, but less safe at night.

    • There is safety in numbers in the city, especially at night. Going out with friends is safer than going out alone. When someone knocks on the door, make sure you know who it is before opening the door. Keep curtains closed at night and when no one is home, so people cannot look inside.

    • Always lock the door and windows of the house/apartment/room and car, even if leaving for only a minute.

    • Have keys ready upon entering your house or apartment.

    • Be cautious about giving out a personal address or telephone number to unfamiliar people.

    • Always remember to dial 911 for fire, police, or ambulance services. Keep this number near the phone

    UTRGV's Campus Safety & Security - Protects and serves the campus community of students, faculty, staff and visitors throughout the Rio Grande Valley Region by providing professional law enforcement services and actively promoting community involvement through progressive community policing partnership strategies and a commitment to education. We are open 24 hours a day, 7 days a week



Recreation

  • Recreation Information

    UTRGV’s Recreation Center - Come gain the ultimate college experience while in a fitness program, playing intramurals, working-out, or soaking up the sun by the pool. We have something for everyone.

    Edinburg Parks & Recreation - sponsors a variety of low-cost and free activities and classes for children and adults.

    McAllen Parks & Recreation - sponsors a variety of low-cost and free activities and classes for children and adults.

    Brownsville Parks & Recreation - sponsors a variety of low-cost and free activities and classes for children and adults.

    Harlingen Parks & Recreation - sponsors a variety of low-cost and free activities and classes for children and adults.



Legal Matters 

  • Beware of Immigration Scams

    Many people offer help with immigration services. Unfortunately, not all are authorized to do so, and the wrong help can hurt. Sometimes people are just trying to get personal information from you. This is against the law and may be considered an immigration services scam. USCIS/USDHS or other US government agencies DO NOT call international visitors asking for money or request to meet at locations other than the agency itself. Please be aware of this scam targeting international scholars and report any incidents immediately. Remember reporting scams will not affect your immigration status or pending applications. Also, many US states allow you to report scams anonymously. See examples of common scams.

    Reporting Immigration Scams
    1) Report the incident to the UTRGV Police Department.
    2) Report the incident to US Citizenship & Immigration Services (USCIS) by completing the online form at the USCIS Avoid Scams website: www.uscis.gov

    Protecting Your Personal Identity: 5 Helpful Tips
    Here are 5 helpful tips for protecting your personal identity:

    • Be wary of giving your personal information to a person, agency, or company that contacts you (as opposed to one you contact). Never give your Social Security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, credit card number, bank PIN codes or passwords. Ask the person to give you a number you can call to verify his/her identity and ask the person to send you any information they would like you to consider in writing.
    • Do not give your personal information to anyone, unless you know who you are giving it to and why they need the information.
    • Keep your important papers secure, shred documents with sensitive information before you put them in the trash, and limit the personal information you carry with you in your wallet, purse, or bag.
    • Pick up your mail daily to minimize the risk of it being stolen. Place outgoing mail in a US Postal Service mail receptacle rather than your own mailbox.
    • Maintain appropriate security on your computers and other electronic devices. Never give out personal information unless you are using a secure website. You may determine if a website is secure by looking at the beginning of the web address in your browser's address bar. It should read "https://" instead of "http://". You may also look to the bottom right of your screen for a padlock symbol.
  • Choosing an Attorney

    Before selecting an attorney, here is a list of questions you should consider:

    • Does the attorney primarily practice in the area of immigration law?
    • How many years has the attorney been practicing immigration law?
    • What kind of experience does the attorney have with the specific type of case you have?
    • What is the attorney's honest appraisal of the likelihood of success with your case? Be wary of anyone who "guarantees" you success.
    • Is there any initial consultation fee? Some attorneys do not charge for the initial office visit, but may spend only a few minutes with you. Others may charge a fee and give you a more in-depth interview.
    • How much are the fees for his/her services? Some attorneys have an hourly charge; others have a fixed fee, depending on the type of case.
    • Will you be working directly with that attorney? Some will turn your case over to an associate or a legal assistant after the initial interview.
    • Is the attorney a member of the American Immigration Lawyers Association? If not, it is very unlikely that s/he is actively practicing immigration law.
    • Can the attorney give you the name of a international advisor who can comment on the quality of his/her work?
    • Does everything you know about this attorney tell you that this person is knowledgeable and competent to handle your specific type of case?
    • Does everything you know about this attorney tell you that this person is ethical and honest in relations with clients?
    • Are you comfortable with the attorney's style and personality?
    • Are the fees comparable to other attorney's fees? If not, why not? The lowest fee does not necessarily indicate the best deal. The highest fee does not necessarily indicate the best service.
  • Immigration Attorneys

    AILA (American Immigration Lawyers Association): Go to the “Find a Lawyer” tab.  Then under “Type of lawyer” you will most likely want to search “Naturalization” if you are interested in filing a permanent residency application
  • UTRGV Policy

    UTRGV has strict policies that prohibit the use of outside attorneys for any immigration matter related to employment at UTRGV. Experienced attorneys will ask you to check with the Immigration Services at the Human Resources Office before they agree to provide any services that involve representation of UTRGV. Note: Only at the stage of adjustment of status (I-485) is when you can choose your own attorney.

  • Know your Rights

    The safety and security of our scholars is a top priority; it is important that you know your rights and how you can be proactive in having a safe and rewarding experience at UTRGV. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) provides tips for interacting with law enforcement and government agencies as well as understanding your rights:



Authorized Doctors

  • Find a doctor

    Find a Doctor - When you apply for a green card (adjustment of status) in the United States, you usually need to have a medical examination. The exam must be done by a doctor who is authorized by U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS). USCIS designates certain doctors (also known as civil surgeons) to perform the medical exam required for most Green Card applicants. Military physicians are authorized to perform immigration medical exams at a military treatment facility within the United States for U.S. veterans, members of the U.S. military and designated dependents.



Banks 

  • Money and Banking

    In the United States, it is customary to use checks and credit cards rather than using cash because it is easier and safer. It is best to open an account at a bank or credit union so money can be taken out of the account when needed. It is not safe to carry around large amounts of cash.

    Most banks are open Monday through Friday from morning until mid-afternoon, and some are open also on Saturday morning. Upon opening an account, a “cash machine” or ATM card will be offered in order to get money out of the account at any hour, day or night. These cards can be used at automated teller machines (ATMs) all over the world.

    The two main types of bank accounts are checking accounts, which allow checks to be written, and savings accounts, which offer a place to keep money and earn interest. Some checking accounts also pay interest. Most people in the USA pay their bills with checks or online with debit and credit cards. Cash should never be sent in the mail to pay for a bill or for any other reason.

  • Opening a Bank Account

    To open an account at most banks you will need one or two valid forms of identification and a local mailing address to receive mail. A passport and a UTRGV identification card are usually sufficient. At least $25 is usually required to open an account, and depending on your account there will be a monthly service charge unless a “minimum balance requirement” is maintained. Banks often have “hidden” fees so be sure to inquire about all possible fees.

    Not all banks require a U.S. Social Security number to open an account, however, bank services may be limited (no online banking etc.) if you do not have a Social Security number.



U.S Holidays 

  • Major U.S. Holidays

    The following legal holidays are days when many businesses, schools, and banks are closed.

    New Year’s Day (January 1)
    The celebration, marking the first day of the New Year, occurs at midnight on December 31st with a grand party, a lot of noise, and toasts.

    Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day
    Celebrate the birthday of this civil rights leader on the third Monday in January.

    Presidents’ Day
    Observed on the third Monday in February, this holiday honors the birthdays of the first U.S. president, George Washington (February 22) and President Abraham Lincoln (February 12).

    Cesar Chavez Day (March 25)
    A California state holiday to honor the labor activism of Cesar Chavez on behalf of farm workers.

    Memorial Day (last Monday in May)
    Commemorates U.S. soldiers who have died in wars. It is customary to decorate their graves with flowers or flags on this day.

    Independence Day (July 4)
    A day of parades, picnics, and fireworks, celebrating the signing of the U.S. Declaration of Independence in 1776.

    Labor Day
    Celebrated on the first Monday in September honoring the importance of labor organizations in America.

    Veteran’s Day (November 11)
    “Armistice Day” marking the treaty date ending World War I. This holiday honors veterans of all wars with parades and speeches.

    Thanksgiving Day
    Celebrated on the fourth Thursday of November with a huge traditional dinner consisting of a roasted stuffed turkey, cranberry sauce, sweet potatoes, squash, and pumpkin pie. The custom dates back to the pilgrims in 1621 that gave thanks for a bountiful harvest and the Native Americans who taught them agricultural cultivation.

    Christmas (December 25)
    A joyful holiday of gift-giving, family reunions, Santa Claus, feasting, and decorated Christmas trees based on a Christian tradition.



UTRGV Holidays



Daycare and Schools

  • Daycare Option

    UTRGV Child Development Center - The CDC provides children, from ages 3 months to 5 years old, a variety of diverse and creative learning opportunities in a caring and nurturing environment.  We also focus on the whole child, taking into account all your child’s developmental needs – physical, social, emotional and cognitive.

  • Public Schools

    Internationals at UTRGV may enroll their children in public school in Cameron/Hidalgo County if they are between 5 and 18 years of age. Where a family lives determines which elementary or high school the child may attend. For the city of Edinburg, visit the Edinburg School Finder website to locate schools in your area. McAllen, visit the McAllen School Finder and Brownsville visit the Brownsville School Finder.


Senators Local Office

  • Agency Help

    Agency Help - If you can't get an answer from a federal agency in a timely fashion, or if you feel you have been treated unfairly, my office may be able to help resolve a problem or get you the information you need. While we cannot guarantee you a favorable outcome, we will do our best to help you receive a fair and timely response to your problem.

    Residents of the Congressional District of Texas can contact me for assistance in dealing with Federal agencies. In order to better serve you, this form will generate a printable page that you should sign and mail to my office.



Emergency Information

  • Call 911 You can dial 911 from any phone. 911 is the nationwide emergency number. 
  • Edinburg

    UTRGV Police Station
    Academic Services Facility Bldg.
    501 N. Sugar Road
    Edinburg, TX 78539
    Dispatch: (956) 665-7151
    Campus Emergency: (956) 882-4911
    Fax: (956) 665-7028
    Email: Police@utrgv.edu

  • Brownsville

    UTRGV Police Station
    2671 FJRM Ave.
    Brownsville, TX 78520
    Dispatch: (956) 882-8232
    Campus Emergency: (956) 882-4911

  • Medical Emergencies

    During a medical emergency, go to the nearest hospital Emergency Room or Urgent Care facility. A medical emergency is generally defined as a sudden, serious and unexpected illness, injury or condition, including severe pain, requiring immediate medical attention.

  • Crisis Hotlines

    Telephone lines that can be called to find out information during times of crisis.

    AIDS Hotline (800) 299-2437

    Child Abuse Hotline (800) 255-2574

    Mental Health/Depression/Suicide Hotline (877) 289-7199

    Poison Information Center (800) 222-1222

    Domestic Violence Hotline (800) 525-1978

    Rape Hotline (800) 656-4673

    Gambling Addiction Hotline (800) 522-4700

    Planned Parenthood (800) 230-7526