Pre-Arrival Information - National Capital Region

Washington, D.C., skylineAs you prepare to travel to the United States, you naturally have questions about what arrangements you should make for your trip. This page gives you important information to help you plan for your stay at the Language and Culture Institute.

Location and operating hours

The Virginia Tech Language and Culture Institute's National Capital Region site is about 30 kilometers west of Washington, D.C., in Fairfax, Virginia. It is a block away from the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station on the Orange Line. Learn more about the National Capital Region

Hours of operation are 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Friday, except on university holidays.

The LCI offices are closed the last week of the year and are open limited hours the first week of the year.

Your arrival

Arrival date

Plan to arrive in Northern Virginia before classes begin, but no more than 30 days early. This will give you time to become familiar with the area, open a bank account, and find housing before beginning your academic work.

Airport arrival

Washington Dulles International Airport (IAD), located 20 kilometers west of Fairfax, handles most international flights. Ground transportation from Dulles Airport to Fairfax can be arranged as follows:

  • By Taxi: Reserve a taxi with Washington Flyer Taxi, 703-572-8294, by 7 p.m. the day before arrival. Upon arrival, go to the Dulles Airport Transportation Desk to locate your driver. The cost for a taxi from the airport to the Dunn Loring-Merrifield Metro station is $30-$40.
  • By Bus: Dulles Airport is served by Washington Flyer Coach Service, connecting the airport with the Wiehle-Restone East Metro station. Buses depart every 30 minutes; tickets are $5. Tickets may be purchased at Arrivals Door No. 4 in the main terminal. 
  • Shuttle service to and from the airport may be arranged with Super Shuttle.

Please be sure the LCI knows your date of arrival and flight number. Inform the LCI of any changes in your arrival plans.

In case of emergency related to your arrival, call the LCI at 703-205-2750 (from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday). 

Hotel options

If possible, arrive at Dulles Airport before 8 p.m. If you arrive late, plan to spend the night in a hotel with airport shuttle service. These hotels usually have higher rates during the week and cheaper rates on the weekend.

Inns of Virginia $84-$119 per night 703-533-1100
Governor House Inn $109-$149/night 703-532-8900
Westin Tyson’s Corners $99-$219/night 703-893-1340

The Westin Tyson’s Corner Hotel offers shuttle service from the hotel to the West Falls Church Metro station.

Housing

There is no on-campus housing for LCI students in the National Capital Region. Students must arrange their own housing.

Homestay

Accommodation with a U.S. host family should be arranged at least three weeks in advance. Meal options are available.

Homestay placements are private rooms (single occupancy). Sheets, a blanket, a pillow, and towels are supplied, and you will have access to laundry facilities. Most homes are close to public transportation, within 30 minutes of the institute.

The homestay application form will ask your preferences about family size, smoking, and pets.

For information on homestay accommodation in the area, contact Just Like Home, 1-301-649-2389.

Apartment housing

Apartments with one or more bedrooms, a living room, a kitchen, and a bathroom are available in Fairfax or the surrounding area; some students choose to live in Washington, D.C. Many apartments are within walking distance of the center or accessible via bus or Metro.

Rent in Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C., will cost at least $900-$1,200 per month for a one-bedroom apartment. If you wish to rent an apartment, we recommend that you stay at a hotel (see list above) for several days to visit apartments in person before choosing one.

Apartments may be furnished or unfurnished and may include cooking facilities. Rent may or may not include utilities such as water and sewer or trash collection. Gas and/or electric services and telephone are usually separate expenses; these costs can be significant.

Occupants must sign a lease or housing contract, usually for 12 months; shorter leases are more difficult to find. Make sure not to sign a one-year lease if you do not plan to stay a full year. Once signed, a lease cannot be broken or changed.

When a lease is signed, a security deposit for potential damages is required. This can range from one-half to one full month’s rent. Please plan for this deposit in your budget.

Furnishings for apartments may be acquired from secondhand stores and private “yard sales,” from rental companies, or from local stores.

Craigslist classifieds for Northern Virginia is a useful website for locating housing and furnishings for apartments. Check to see whether the seller offers delivery before making a purchase.

Short-term apartment rentals are available through Oakwood Worldwide. You may search the website by city, entering your move-in and move-out dates, and choose whether you would like a furnished or unfurnished apartment. 

International Student House in Washington, D.C., is a residence for students over 21 years old who are committed to promoting their mission of “tolerance, respect, and friendship among individuals from around the world.” 

For additional information on apartment housing in the Northern Virginia area, please see:

Planning for your stay

Financial matters

Arrive in Fairfax with sufficient funds for the first four months. You will pay your tuition and housing separately. Acceptable forms of tuition payment are money order, cashier checks, e-checks drawn on a U.S. account, and credit card MasterCard, Visa, American Express). Bring a bank cashier’s check or travelers’ checks issued through a U.S. bank in U.S. dollars and open a local bank account immediately at a bank belonging to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC). Federal deposit insurance protects the first $100,000 of deposits that are payable in the United States. 

The LCI recommends that international students open a new bank account at BB&T, Chevy Chase Bank, or Wachovia, which do not require a Social Security number to open an account. 

Tuition and Fees

Tuition is collected within two weeks of the start of each term. Tuition includes course and books, with the exception of the TOEFL text. 

A $184 technology fee is collected each term in addition to tuition, to cover use of the institute’s computer lab and Northern Virginia Center facilities. 

Health and accident insurance

Students are required to have a health and accident policy providing protection for themselves and their dependents in the event of major illness or injury.

The university’s  minimum insurance requirements:

  1. There is an adequate care provider within 50 miles of the campus.
  2. Major medical benefits of at least $500,000 per accident or illness.
  3. Repatriation of remains coverage $25,000.
  4. Minimum of $50,000 for medical evacuation to the home country.
  5. Deductible not to exceed $500 per accident or illness.
  6. Pregnancy, childbirth, and complications of pregnancy will be covered in the same manner as any other illness under the plan.
  7. Prescription Medication coverage (after co-pays) with a minimum of $500,000 per insured per policy year.
  8. Outpatient and Inpatient mental health care will be covered in the same manner as any other illness.
  9. No international caps coverage, including services, treatment, or surgery.
  10. No pre-existing condition waiting period.

Students may purchase health insurance on their own, but the LCI recommends including the above-listed benefits as a minimum. Note that student insurance does not cover travel to the United States and vacation periods. Insurance information

Medical records

Bring translated medical records for your accompanying family members. Children cannot enroll in school or child care programs without the required immunizations.

Immigration and travel

Entering the U.S.

When you enter the U.S., you will present your passport, containing a valid F-1 visa and Form I-20 to an immigration officer. Keep the I-20 with your passport for identification purposes; these documents are necessary to leave and re-enter the U.S.

You may enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the program start date on your I-20. 

Transfer students

F-1 students transferring from other English language programs in the U.S. must bring their old I-20 to the office. A new I-20 will not be issued until you turn in your financial certification form and the transfer form that shows that you maintained status at your original school.

Working

F-1 students can work up to 20 hours per week during academic sessions and up to 40 hours per week during summer or semester breaks only at an available Virginia Tech position. F-2 visa holders cannot work.

Paying customs duties

U.S. Customs Service regulations restrict certain items from being brought into the U.S. Ask at a United States consulate in your home country for a copy of United States Customs Hints for Visitors, which explains customs regulations and may prevent unnecessary inconvenience or expense.

Weather and clothing

The Northern Virginia climate is temperate and permits outdoor activities throughout most of the year. Summers are rather warm with temperatures averaging 86º F (30º C) and sometimes exceeding 95º F (35º C). Winters average 34º F (1.1º C).

Rainfall is moderate throughout the year. Snowfall occurs occasionally during the winter months.

A heavy winter coat, an umbrella and/or raincoat, and a pair of comfortable waterproof walking shoes are necessities for the winter months. We also recommend that students have a warm scarf, hat, sweater or sweatshirt, and gloves.

Driving in the U.S.

Driver's license

A valid driver's license is needed for operating a motor vehicle. A driver's license is also a form of identification. Information on obtaining a driver's license can be found on the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles website at www.dmv.state.va.us.

Virginia does not officially recognize the International Driver's License, although it does recognize your home country's driver's license for 30 days. If you are transferring from another state, you will need to get a new Virginia driver’s license within 60 days.

You may apply at any Department of Motor Vehicle branch or at any DMV driver license station. For requirements, see: www.dmv.virginia.gov/drivers.

The nearest full-service DMV branch to the LCI is at 1968 Gallows Road in Tysons Corner:  www.dmv.virginia.gov/general/#csc/csc.asp?id=7.

Car rental

Cars may be rented for trips on weekends or during school breaks. You may rent a car if you are over 21 and have a valid driver's license and a major credit card. Rental companies charge more for drivers under 25 and without U.S. auto insurance. There are various car rental companies in Fairfax and at Dulles Airport.

First day at school

Registration

When you come to the LCI for the first time, bring the following:

  • Passport
  • I-94 card printed from www.cbp.gov/I94
  • Form I-20
  • Any insurance information that you have from your home country.

We are required to check those documents to verify your legal status in the United States and to make copies for your file in the LCI office. The business office will collect your tuition about two weeks after you enroll.

Child care

If you have small children, there are day care centers and preschools available for your children in Fairfax:

Special needs

If you require accommodation for a disability to participate in the LCI program, contact Pedro Santiago at 703- 205-2754 (8 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday through Friday) or at pesanti@vt.edu. Some accommodations may take time to arrange. Please give two weeks for resolution of such requests.