Cal Poly

International Scholar Handbook

The exchange visitor information listed below is provided as a service of the Cal Poly International Center for the Cal Poly community. The International Center is not responsible for its accuracy as U.S. Citizenship & Immigration Services and State Department regulations for the Exchange Visitor Program are subject to change without notice.

A Checklist for Exchange Visitors

  • Review your new DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status, check it for accuracy, read the information on page 2, then sign and date the bottom of the form.
  • Complete a Dependents Form for your spouse and/or any unmarried children under 21 years old accompanying you that will need J-2 visas.
  • Study this Handbook for Cal Poly Exchange Visitors.
  • Review the U.S. Department of State Exchange Visitor brochure.
  • Pay the I-901 SEVIS fee, as required by federal law, prior to your visa interview at the U.S. consulate (or, if you are a Canadian citizen, prior to your arrival at the U.S. port of entry). Be sure to retain the SEVIS fee payment receipt.
  • Schedule an appointment at the nearest U.S. consulate, then apply for your J-1 visa. (Canadian citizens are visa-exempt.)
  • Enter the U.S. within 30 days prior to the start date indicated in item 3 of your DS-2019. If unable to enter the U.S. within those 30 days, contact your sponsoring department to request an amended DS-2019 and enter using the new form.
  • Within the first week of your arrival, visit the International Center in 52/E-32 so that your arrival on campus can be reported to the government as required by law. Email us at international@calpoly.edu to schedule a check-in appointment. Bring your passport, DS-2019, your social security card (if applicable), your U.S. residence address, U.S. phone number and emergency contact information.
  • Purchase mandatory health insurance by calling Wells Fargo Insurance Services at 800-853-5899. The cost is approximately $90 per month for each visitor on a J-1 visa and each accompanying dependent on a J-2 visa.

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The Exchange Visitor Program

Cal Poly has been designated by the U.S. Department of State as an exchange visitor program sponsor. Cal Poly sponsors exchange visitors for a variety of educational purposes, including teaching and research.

Certificate of Eligibility, Form DS-2019

The DS-2019 is your certificate of eligibility for exchange visitor status at Cal Poly. Check this document for accuracy, carefully read the instructions on page 2, then sign and date it. The DS-2019 records your biographical data, identifies your activities at Cal Poly, and lists the beginning and ending dates of your exchange program, category of participation, and source and amount of funding. The DS-2019 serves several important purposes (for example, permitting you to apply for a visa) and must remain valid at all times. Keep every DS-2019 for your permanent record—do not discard the old ones. Your spouse and unmarried minor children (under 21 years of age) are eligible for J-2 "dependent" status. Each J-2 dependent must be in possession of a DS-2019 form. To request a DS-2019 for a dependent who did not accompany the J-1 to the U.S., contact Cal Poly International Center. DS-2019s for dependent family members can be issued only if the funding for their support and required health insurance is adequate.

Limitations of stay

Federal law limits how long a person can hold exchange visitor status. Following completion of the program (item 3 on the DS-2019), you may remain an additional 30 days in the U.S. to settle your affairs before returning home. Employment is not permitted during this "grace period."

  • The total stay in the United States for exchange visitors in the "professor" and "research scholar" categories is 3 years. Extensions beyond the 3 years may be possible, but only under special circumstances.
  • The total stay in the U.S. for "short term scholars" is six months. No extension beyond the six-month limit is possible.

Extension of stay

The duration of your exchange visitor program is stated in item 3 of the DS-2019. The University may extend your program participation up to the limit allowed by law. To request an extension, ask your sponsoring academic department to contact Cal Poly International Center. The International Center will issue a new DS-2019 reflecting the extension. Following completion of the program, the exchange visitor is no longer in J-visa status. However, immigration law allows the exchange visitor a 30-day "grace period" beyond the program completion date to settle his or her affairs and return home. Employment is not permitted during the grace period.

The 12-month bar

Time spent in the U.S. as an exchange visitor may affect future eligibility for J-1 status. This is referred to as the "12-month bar." The 12-month bar prohibits a person from beginning an exchange visitor program as a "professor" or "research scholar" if he or she was in the U.S. in J status (including J-2 status) for all or part of the twelve month period immediately preceding the date of program commencement indicated on the new DS-2019 form. If any part of the exchange visitor's status extended into the 12-month period, the bar applies. There are three exceptions:

  • J-1 transfers. The 12-month bar is not applicable to those who will begin a program by transferring to a new program.
  • Presence in J status of less than 6 months. A person whose prior J status (physical presence in the U.S. ) was of less than six months duration is exempt from the 12-month bar.
  • Presence in J status as a "short-term scholar." No time spent as a "short-term scholar" is counted as physical presence that triggers the bar.

Note that the 12-month bar applies only to a person beginning an exchange visitor program in the categories of "professor" and "research scholar" and does not affect eligibility for other J categories such as "short-term scholar" or "student."

Two-year home country physical presence requirement

The purpose of the two-year foreign residence requirement is so that the home country can benefit from your experience in the United States . It is intended to ensure that you will spend at least two years in your home country before coming back to the U.S. for a long-term stay. Not all exchange visitors are subject to this requirement! The 2-year requirement will apply only if you receive direct funding for your exchange visitor program from your government or the U.S. government, of if your country needs individuals with your professional skills, or if you are receiving medical education or training under the sponsorship of the Education Commission for Foreign Medical Graduates. If you have questions, contact Cal Poly International Center or discuss your concerns with the consular officer when applying for your visa.

Notice for paid visitors

This Department of State Legal Rights and Protections pamphlet provides information about your rights in the United States and protection available to you. Review this important pamphlet before applying for your visa.

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Coming to the United States

Overview of the visa process

A United States visa entry permit is a stamp on a page of the passport that allows you to travel to the border of the United States , where you then ask an immigration officer for permission to enter the United States . The visa contains much information including biographical data, visa type (for example, J-1 or J-2), location of the visa issuing office, date of issuance, number of entries allowed (or "M" for multiple entries), expiration date, photograph and fingerprint. Most applicants for visas are interviewed by a U.S. consular officer, and the interview appointment should be scheduled as early as possible. Consulates charge a fee for issuing the visa. (Note that the visa fee is in addition to the SEVIS fee.) If possible, you should apply for the visa at a consulate in your home country. The visa does not need to remain valid after you have used it to enter the United States . Your DS-2019 and passport, however, must remain valid at all times.

  • To apply for the J-1 visa, present the DS-2019, a receipt confirming payment of the SEVIS fee, evidence of funding, and passport to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. The consular officer may return the DS-2019 to you in a sealed envelope—do not open the envelope!
  • Applicants for J-2 dependent visas present to the consular officer their DS-2019s, passports, and evidence of family relationship (marriage certificate if spouse of the J-1, or birth certificate if child of the J-1).
  • Canadian citizens do not require visas, but must present the DS-2019 and receipt showing payment of the SEVIS fee to the Immigration Officer upon entry into the U.S.

The I-901 SEVIS fee

SEVIS, the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System, is a government database that maintains and manages information on exchange visitors during their stay in the United States . The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires payment of a I-901 SEVIS fee to cover operational costs of the SEVIS program.

  • Who must pay the fee?
    New J-1 exchange visitors who use a Form DS-2019 to "begin a new program" are required to pay the fee, if the DS-2019 was issued after September 1, 2004.
  • Who does not have to pay the fee?
    New or continuing J-1 exchange visitors whose DS-2019 was issued prior to September 1, 2004 do not pay the fee. Dependents in J-2 status do not pay the fee.
  • When does the fee need to be paid?
    The fee must be paid at least three days prior to applying for a J-1 visa at a U.S. consulate (or, for Canadian citizens who are visa-exempt, three days prior to entering the U.S. ).
  • How is the SEVIS fee paid?
    The SEVIS fee can be paid on-line with a credit card, or by mail with a check, or by using Western Union 's "Quick Pay" service. Another person can pay the fee on your behalf.
  • Will I be issued a receipt?
    Yes. You must present the receipt to the consular officer when applying for a visa, and to the immigration officer when entering the United States . We suggest you staple the receipt to your DS-2019 form.

Documentation required for admission as an Exchange Visitor

To enter the United States to begin an exchange visitor program, carry the following documents:

  • Passport valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected stay.
  • J-1 (or J-2) visa stamp. (Canadian citizens are visa-exempt.)
  • DS-2019. Your spouse and unmarried minor children (under 21 years of age) are eligible for J-2 "dependent" status. Each J-2 dependent must be in possession of a DS-2019 form. To request a DS-2019 for a dependent who did not accompany the J-1 to the U.S., contact Cal Poly International Center. DS-2019s for dependent family members can be issued only if the funding for their support and required health insurance is adequate.
  • Receipt evidencing payment of the SEVIS fee.
  • Documentation of your source and amount of financial support. (Original signed offer letter.)
  • You must enter the U.S. within the 30-day period prior to the start date indicated in item 3 of the DS-2019. If unable to enter the U.S. before the start date, contact your sponsoring department to request a new DS-2019 and enter using the new form.
  • Remember to visit the International Center during the first week of your start date (item 3 of the DS-2019) so that your arrival on campus can be reported to the government as required by law. Bring your passport, annotated DS-2019, evidence of health insurance coverage, your social security card (if applicable), and your U.S. address.

At the port-of-entry into the United States

Here are some tips:

  • If you are beginning your exchange visitor program, arrange to enter the U.S. within 30 days prior to the start date indicated in item 3 of your DS-2019. If you cannot enter the U.S. within those 30 days, contact your sponsoring department to request an amended DS-2019 and enter using the new form.
  • Always hand-carry your documents, and be prepared to present them to an immigration officer at the airport. You will not have access to your baggage until later. These documents will be returned to you.
  • An immigration officer may ask your reason for entering the U.S. Tell the officer that you will be an exchange visitor at Cal Poly, and that you intend to return home following completion of your program. Answer all questions honestly and completely.
  • The officer will stamp your passport with your arrival date and notate the stamp with your visa type and duration of status ("J-1 D/S") A “D/S” means you remain in J-1 visa status as long as your DS-2019 is valid and you do not violate any terms of your status. Dependents’ passports will be stamped with “J-2/DS.”
  • If you require proof of your status to apply for a Social Security Card or for other reasons, you may retrieve an Electronic I-94.
  • The officer will also take your fingerprint and photograph.
  • If the officer cannot initially verify your information or if you do not have all the required documentation, you may be directed to an interview area referred to as "secondary inspection." Be patient and cooperative. If the officer has questions about your affiliation with Cal Poly, suggest that he or she contact Cal Poly International Center.
  • Federal law requires that J-1 exchange visitors report in person to their program sponsor within 30 days of the start date indicated in item 3 of the DS-2019. Do not forget to visit Cal Poly International Center so that your arrival on campus can be reported to the government as required by law! Bring your passport, annotated DS-2019, evidence of health insurance coverage, and your social security card (if applicable.)

Returning to the United States after a temporary absence

These documents are needed to re-enter the U.S. in exchange visitor status after a temporary absence:

  • DS-2019, endorsed for travel by Cal Poly International Center (bottom right hand corner of the form). The travel endorsement is valid up to 6 months. Carry all DS-2019s ever issued, not just the most recent one.
  • Valid passport.
  • Valid J-1 or J-2 visa. If the visa has expired, request a new visa at a U.S. consulate prior to returning to the United States.
  • Please visit Cal Poly International Center before leaving the U.S. Let us review your documents and discuss travel procedures.
  • Renewing your J-1 visa is not guaranteed. Renewal applicants may be subject to a security clearance which may take a month or longer. It is not recommended to apply for a visa extension during the short breaks between quarters.
  • Come to the Cal Poly International Center office so we can copy your new entry stamp and any new notations on your documents.

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Upon Arrival in San Luis Obispo

Required check-in with the International Center

Not later than 30 days after the program start date listed in item 3 of the DS-2019, you must visit the International Center in 52/E-32. Bring your passport, annotated DS-2019, evidence of health insurance coverage, your social security card (if applicable), and your U.S. address. Cal Poly International Center staff will confirm to the government as required by law that you have arrived on campus. Failure to check-in with Cal Poly International Center within 30 days of the program start date will result in loss of your J-1 status.

Housing

The Housing and Business Services Office (Bldg. 29) maintains information on off-campus housing. Rentals in and around San Luis Obispo are available on the Housing site . For additional information, call the Housing Office at 805-756-1226.

Driver's License/California State Identification Card

For a small fee, the California Department of Motor Vehicles issues driver's licenses, and also photo identification cards for non-drivers. Identification cards can be issued at any age and are valid for 5 years. You may drive in California with an international driver's license for up to 10 days. Then you must obtain a California driver's license if you wish to continue to drive. Go to the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) in San Luis Obispo to apply. The DMV office is located at 3190 South Higuera Street. You will have to take a two-part test. First, a written exam, and then a driving test. A Driver License Handbook is available online to help prepare you for the written exam. This booklet is also produced in several different languages besides English. It may take as long as 6 months to 1 year before your receive your photo driver's license or California I.D. card. Until then you will be given a temporary permit (after you have passed the written and driving tests.) You may be asked to provide a Social Security Card when you apply for your Driver License. If you are not working at Cal Poly, then you do not qualify for a Social Security Card. In this case, you may go to the Social Security Office (next door to the DMV) and ask for a denial letter which tells the DMV you are not eligible for the SS card. The DMV will accept this letter in lieu of the SS card.

Social Security Number

Exchange visitors paid by U.S. sources must apply for a social security number . To apply for a social security card before entry to the U.S. contact the Social Security Administration. Payment of salary may be withheld until the social security number is issued. To obtain a social security number, apply in person at a local Social Security Administration Office no sooner than 10 days after your arrival in the U.S. You must also check-in with Cal Poly International Center prior to your visit to the Social Security Office. Cal Poly International Center can provide you with a letter to take with you to the Social Security office in San Luis Obispo. Exchange visitors who are not paid by U.S. sources are ineligible for a social security number.

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Dependents

Sponsoring Dependents for J-2 Status

Your spouse and unmarried minor children (under 21 years of age) are eligible for J-2 "dependent" status. Each J-2 dependent must be in possession of a DS-2019 form. To request a DS-2019 for a dependent who did not accompany the J-1 to the U.S., complete the Dependents Form. DS-2019s for dependent family members can be issued only if the funding for their support and required health insurance is adequate. See amount of funds required on the Information for Visiting Scholars web page.

Employment

J-2 visa holders may apply to U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services (CIS) for employment authorization . The J-2 may begin employment after receiving an Employment Authorization Document (EAD) from CIS. The EAD is valid for any kind of full-time or part-time employment for the period of time stated on the EAD. J-2 employment authorization may not exceed the program duration indicated on the J-1's DS-2019, and is valid only if the J-1 is maintaining status. J-2s are subject to Social Security and federal income taxes. The J-2 will not be able to obtain a Social Security number unless in possession of an EAD.

Departure of Dependents

You are required to notify the International Center of any dependent who departs the USA for the final time during this exchange experience, if the departure is prior to your own. You may e-mail Susan Tripp of these departures.

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Money Matters

Your DS-2019 indicates the source and amount of your financial support (in U.S. dollars) that will be provided to you for the effective dates of your appointment. Sources could include a U.S. government agency, an international organization, your home government, your home country employer, or any combination of these sources. Personal funds may supplement but not substitute for institutional, governmental or agency funding. These combined sources of funding should be sufficient to cover your expenses.

Taxes

All J-1 exchange visitors who received U.S.-source income are required to file Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Form 1040NR or 1040NR-EZ by April 15 for the previous calendar year. All J-1 visitors, regardless of whether any salary was earned during their stay, must file Form 8843. U.S. tax laws are confusing, and the laws that apply to internationals are not the same as those that apply to U.S. citizens. The IRS provides information through free publications and a telephone information line. The phone number for general tax information is 1-800-829-1040 (ask for technical division). To order any of the federal publications or forms mentioned here, contact the IRS tax forms and publications division at 1-800-829-3676. Retain photocopies of the completed statement and/or tax return form and any documents submitted.

Banking

One of the first things you will want to do after arriving in San Luis Obispo is to open a bank account. We strongly advise that you neither carry with you nor keep in your home large amounts of cash. It is also not safe to send cash through the mail. We recommend that you open an account at a bank where you can take money from your account, as you need it.

There are many banks located in San Luis Obispo, especially in the downtown area. These banks offer various types of financial services, such as checking accounts, savings accounts, safe deposit boxes for valuables, foreign currency conversion, international money orders, and electronic wire transfer directly from bank-to-bank. The most convenient way to transfer funds from your home country to the United States is by electronic wire transfer. This method generally allows immediate credit and use of the money. Some of the banks in San Luis Obispo are:

  • Bank of America: 1105 Higuera Street, 805-544-2022 or 805-595-5339
  • Chase: 1235 Chorro Street, 805-595-5602 and 445 Madonna Rd., and on campus near bookstore
  • Wells Fargo: 665 Marsh Street, 805-541-0143
  • Cal Poly employees and students are eligible to become members of the SESLOC credit union. SESLOC has offices in San Luis Obispo , Arroyo Grande, Paso Robles, and on the Cal Poly campus.

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Health Care and Insurance

All J-1 exchange visitors are required to have health insurance while in the United States. Unlike many other countries, which bear the expense of health care for its residents, individuals in the U.S. are responsible for these expenses themselves. A single day of hospitalization can cost thousands of dollars. A good insurance policy gives you access to excellent medical facilities and provides protection against the enormous costs of health care.

Insurance requirements

The U.S. Department of State requires that J-1 exchange visitors and their J-2 dependents have sickness and accident insurance for their entire stay in the USA. If the J-1 visitor spends time outside of the USA during the period of the program, health insurance must still be in place for the entire duration of the program. Minimum coverage must provide medical benefits ($100,000 per accident or illness), a deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness, expenses associated with the medical evacuation to the home country ($50,000), and repatriation of remains ($25,000). Cal Poly requires that all scholars purchase the Cal Poly International Student and Scholar Insurance available by calling Wells Fargo Insurance Services at 800-853-5899. The cost is approximately $90 per month per person. Information on the plan may be found on the Scholars Health Insurance Web page. For assistance purchasing insurance, please contact Susan Tripp.

A list of Aetna preferred medical providers can be found online. Click on "Find a Doctor" to access the online provider directory. This plan does not include dental insurance for fillings and extractions of teeth, dental check-ups, or cleaning. If you need dental work, you should take care of it before coming to the USA or purchase a dental plan separately.

Health care

After you arrive in the U.S. and purchase health insurance, choose a primary care physician from the list of Aetna preferred medical providers. Twenty-four hour care is available at several nearby hospitals. For life-threatening emergencies, dial 911 on any telephone. From campus phones, dial 7 first to access an outside line.

See the Cal Poly After Hours Care web page for the location of hospitals and walk-in clinics near campus.

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Maintaining J-1 Status

It is your responsibility to understand and comply with the terms of your visa during your stay in the United States . A violation of the immigration regulations (for example, failure to check in with Cal Poly International Center within 30 days of your program start date) could have serious consequences. Review this information carefully, and contact Cal Poly International Center if you have questions.

Mandatory check-in requirement

Federal law requires that J-1 exchange visitors report in person to their program sponsor within 30 days of the start date indicated in item 3 of the DS-2019. All new exchange visitors must visit the Cal Poly International Center office so that their arrival on campus can be reported to the government as required by law. Within the first week of your arrival, visit the International Center in 52/E-32 so that your arrival on campus can be reported to the government as required by law. Email us at international@calpoly.edu to schedule a check-in appointment. Bring your passport, DS-2019, your social security card (if applicable), your U.S. residence address, U.S. phone number, and emergency contact information.

Change of Address

Report your address (where you live in San Luis Obispo , not where you work) to Cal Poly International Center as soon as you arrive on campus. Report any change of address to the International Center within ten days of the change. Failure to report a change of address may result in loss of your exchange visitor status.

Don't let your DS-2019 expire

This document allows you to apply for a visa, enter or re-enter the U.S. , and establishes your legal eligibility to remain in the United States . The DS-2019 must remain valid at all times. Request a new form prior to the current form's expiration date. To request an extension, contact your sponsoring academic department. Keep every DS-2019 for your permanent record.

Don't let your passport expire

Your passport must be valid at all times. Keep it and other important documents in a safe place. Report a lost or stolen passport to the police, as your government may require a police report before issuing a new passport. To renew or replace your passport, contact your country's consulate in the U.S. While in the United States , always carry with you a photocopy of your passport's identity page, and a photocopy of your DS-2019 form. When traveling, carry the original documents but guard them carefully against theft.

Work only with authorization

"Employment" is any work performed (including self-employment) in exchange for money or other benefit or compensation (for example, free housing in exchange for babysitting). If you or your spouse has an opportunity or desire to work in the United States , discuss employment procedures with Cal Poly International Center before accepting the job. Employment is possible in limited situations only, and always must be authorized in advance.

Maintain health insurance

In 1994, the U.S. government passed a law requiring all J-1 exchange visitors and their J-2 dependents to carry health insurance. Failure to maintain health insurance will result in termination of your exchange visitor program. See the Health Care and Insurance section above for more information.

Travel outside the United States

You must have the following if you are leaving and then re-entering the United States:

  • A valid passport, good for six months after your entry date.
  • A valid J-1 visa. Be sure to check your J-1 visa in your passport. If it has expired, you will have to apply for a J-1 visa renewal. You will not be able to re-enter the U.S. in J-1 status without a valid, current J-1 visa.
  • A current, valid DS-2019 with a current travel signature. Your DS-2019 must be current and must have a travel signature that is not older than 6 months. You cannot enter the U.S. with an expired DS-2019 or with a DS-2019 that does not have a current travel signature. ISS cannot sign an DS-2019 if you are not in status. If you are not in status, you will need a new DS-2019.

If you are renewing your visa while traveling outside of the U.S., please stop by the International Students and Scholars office to obtain a letter verifying that you have been maintaining status as an Exchange Visitor in the U.S., and that you are needed at Cal Poly and are expected to return.

Renewing your J-1 visa is not guaranteed. Exchange visitors from some countries may be subject to a security clearance which can delay visa issuance for a month or more. We strongly recommend that you do NOT apply for a new visa during the December vacation period or between winter and spring quarters.

If you do not have a J-1 visa in your passport, you must make an appointment at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate office in your home country. In some countries, you may not be able to get an appointment for several months. Check your local U.S. Embassy or Consulate for more information on visa interview appointments.

Depart the U.S. within 30 days after completing your program

The duration of your program is stated in item 3 of your DS-2019 form. The University may extend your program participation to the limit allowed by law. To request an extension, contact your sponsoring department. Immigration law allows you a 30-day "grace period" beyond the program completion date to settle your affairs and return home. Employment and re-entry to the U.S. in J status is not permitted during the grace period. If you plan to leave prior to your expiration date, you must notify the Cal Poly International Center office.

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Resources

Cal Poly

Founded in 1901, Cal Poly is a fully accredited four-year university with a population of approximately 18,000 students enrolled in seven instructional colleges. As a predominantly undergraduate, comprehensive, polytechnic university serving California , the mission of Cal Poly is to discover, integrate, articulate, and apply knowledge. This it does by emphasizing teaching; engaging in research; participating in the various communities, local, state, national, and international, with which it pursues common interests; and where appropriate, providing students with the unique experience of direct involvement with the actual challenges of their disciplines, in the United States and abroad.

Cal Poly is dedicated to complete respect for human rights and the development of the full potential of each of its individual members. Cal Poly is committed to providing an environment where all share in the common responsibility to safeguard each other's rights, encourage a mutual concern for individual growth and appreciate the benefits of a diverse campus community.

Fun in San Luis Obispo—food, entertainment, and shopping

Welcome to San Luis Obispo! Here is a link to the local Chamber of Commerce and a weekly entertainment publication known as the New Times. Daily news may be found at San Luis Obispo.com. You will soon discover there is a lot to do in San Luis Obispo County.

Transportation

The SLO Transit bus travels throughout the city of San Luis Obispo. To travel by bus throughout San Luis Obispo County, use SLO RTA. Amtrak is the national passenger rail service, and Greyhound is a national bus service. Both have stations in San Luis Obispo .

U.S. Culture

Though the United States is a diverse society, this EduPass guide presents a general overview of American customs.

Important campus offices and resources

More useful resources

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© 2015 California Polytechnic State University Cal Poly International Center
Building 52, Room E32
San Luis Obispo, CA 93407
Phone: (805) 756-1477
Fax: (805) 756-5484
international@calpoly.edu