Visitor FAQ

What qualifications do I need to be eligible to apply to the visitor program?

For the visiting veterinarian program, you will need to be a qualified veterinarian, and proficient in the English language. We also have programs for veterinary nurses, technicians and other professionals, plus student groups. You can always send a message to the Program Coordinator at docsam@vet.upenn.edu asking about your particular requirements.

English is not my first language. Will this be an issue?

If you are not a native speaker, you will need to demonstrate that you are able to understand and communicate in English, so that you can derive maximum benefit from your time at Penn Vet. We may ask for evidence to substantiate this.

I cannot spare much time at present, but I would really like to focus on one or two areas of veterinary medicine, with the possibility of specializing later in my career. Is there a short course I could use to get a taster?

Yes, we can offer a taster session for days or weeks in any of our specialist areas. You would also have the opportunity to talk to Penn Residents about the process they went through in deciding to specialize in their chosen residency. You will find full details of the specialist areas in our information sheet.

What are the fees?

Please contact the Program Coordinator (docsam@vet.upenn.edu) for details of the options available.

It would be a long journey and a big move for me, so could I come for a whole year to gain as much as possible from the experience?

Yes, we offer long-term as well as short-term programs. Spending a year at Penn Vet is a particularly good choice if you are coming from far away, and if you are still deciding which of many areas to specialize in. Our year-long programs will give you a taste of all the specializations that Penn offers.

Can you help with my visa?

Candidates must meet all the criteria to apply for the appropriate visa. Help is available, but please note that a visa can take up to six weeks to process through the University of Pennsylvania’s Office of International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS), and there is a visa processing fee for using Penn’s ISSS visa processing service. https://global.upenn.edu/isss has information on categories of visa and more.

What should I do for accommodation?

This depends a lot on the length of your stay. There are local long- and short-term apartment rentals. There are also hotels in the vicinity; and Airbnb is another option. You’ll find a list of suggestions and resources here.

I am getting ready to depart! What time should I be with you, and where?

A few days before your start date, you will receive confirmation regarding arrival time and whom to contact. (Each service has slightly different hours.) You will be asked to come to the Matthew J. Ryan Veterinary Hospital at 3900 Spruce Street and announce yourself at the front desk or see the security guard. They will inform us, so we can come and collect you. On your first day we will aim to include a 30-minute tour of the building to get you oriented.

How do I get from the airport?

Taxis are typically plentiful at Philadelphia airport. We suggest you acquire some US dollars beforehand to cover initial, incidental expenses like this.

What kind of a city is Philadelphia?

Philadelphia is a cosmopolitan and cultural city, with a deep history. There is plenty for visitors to do and see, from museums and art galleries to a vibrant sports scene. Find out more here.

How can I keep myself safe while I am in Philadelphia?

Try to find accommodation in reasonably close proximity to the university campus. Penn has its own police that monitor the area continuously (see our public safety site); an escort can be made available if you need to work late. You can sign up for alerts on emergency situations and severe weather here.

The Division of Public Safety has developed a few helpful risk reduction strategies outlined below:

  • Familiarize yourself with your surroundings (location, garages, parking lots, etc)
  • Be mindful of distractions (use of cellphones, earbuds, etc)
  • Use our free Walking Escort program any time (215-898-WALK/9255)
  • If you encounter someone aggressively asking for money, do not engage with them; walk away – go into a business or other safe place
  • If you feel that you are being followed walk towards a well lit, populated area
What is the best way to get around the city?

Philadelphia has excellent public transport, and you can now hire a bicycle in many places. Philadelphia airport is well served by taxis, and Uber or Lyft. When you have a weekend free and wish to see a bit of the surrounding area, it could be useful to hire a car.

Can I cycle?

Philadelphia is a good city for cycling in, as long as you are careful. There are also city-wide bicycle share and rental schemes. Here’s a good place to start: https://www.phila.gov/bikeshare.

Where can I park if I come by car?

There’s a list of public parking garages here. The garages at Spruce & 38th, and Walnut & 38th Street are convenient for the Ryan.

I am not a licensed veterinarian in the USA. Can I still participate?

Yes, you may still participate as a veterinarian qualified elsewhere in the world. Although US law says that you may not touch an animal being treated, the visitor program is built around observation. You may watch at close proximity, and the procedure or process will be explained to you. You may also have the opportunity to participate in a wet lab, where you will be able to try out what you are learning. Other veterinary professionals and students should contact us at docsam@vet.upenn.edu for program information.

What is the clothing policy?

Dress code is business casual, or you may wear scrubs. It is useful to have scrubs to hand anyhow, as you may be asked to wear them to observe surgery, for example.

Should I get a local cellular phone?

This could help keep your costs down, especially if you are visiting for more than a few weeks. Verizon and T-Mobile have contract packages. See also: https://global.upenn.edu/isss/getting-started/cell-phones. Internet access is widespread, so WhatsApp, Messenger or similar would also be useful.

Why do I need to provide proof of financial ability?

We are obliged to ask for proof of this, to demonstrate that you can visit the USA without running out of money to be able to return home – so you don’t stay here illegally. You need to show that your accommodation has been paid for and that you have money for daily expenses for the duration of your stay in America.

What kind of insurance will I need?

It is advisable to have travel and health insurance, and you must obtain personal liability insurance. You will need to purchase personal liability insurance. Here are some links which may be helpful:
https://www.reviews.com/travel-insurance/
https://www.allianztravelinsurance.com/ (good for longer visits, includes travel/medical coverage)
https://www.insubuy.com/
https://www.visitorscoverage.com
https://www.quora.com/How-do-Americans-get-personal-liability-insurance-when-they-travel-internationally is a very useful resource for liability insurance
https://www.gninsurance.com/ – personal liability insurance

Are there constraints about what I can do as a visitor?

You may not treat or touch an animal patient. The program is built around observing procedures and joining clinicians on rounds. You can scrub in and observe in the Operating Room. And you may have the opportunity to be involved with a wet lab/cadaver. You will be able to sit in on rounds, and discuss patients with faculty, residents and students.

Do you require proof of my current vaccination status?

Yes, you will need to show proof of COVID vaccination status, including appropriate booster(s). A current rabies vaccination certificate is also a requirement. (Visitors coming for a laboratory-based experience only are kept away from direct contact with fluids, so in this case rabies vaccination is not mandatory.)

How can I obtain some practical information on day-to-day living for when I arrive?

http://www.csamatpennvet.com/information and https://global.upenn.edu/isss/finances have information and links to help you get started – including local banks, the mail service, food and grocery shopping.

Is there a cafeteria on the premises?

Yes, the Green Line Café – @greenlinecafe – has an outlet on the second floor of the Ryan Hospital. Its opening hours are 7:30 AM to 4:30 PM. You can buy coffee and other drinks, snacks and light lunch there.

What is a ‘PennKey’?

If you are visiting for longer than a month, it is useful to have a PennKey. We will help you obtain your PennKey from upstairs at the Penn Bookstore. You will need to have your passport as proof of identification, and be accompanied by a university staff member. We will take you along to the Information Technology team to get it activated. Then you’ll be able to access medical records, and the Penn Vet Library, plus the main university library.

How do I get online?

You can connect to the internet via the AirPennNet Guest wireless network. You will need to register your email address on a web form. Follow these steps:
1. Select AirPennNet-Guest from the list of wireless networks that appear on your device.
2. Open a web browser.
3. Review and accept the Acceptable Use Policy terms and conditions.
4. Enter a valid email address.
5. Click Submit.

I am planning to visit Penn Vet in September, when the Penn Vet Annual Conference takes place. Is it possible for me to attend this as well?

Visitors participating in the Department of Clinical Sciences & Advanced Medicine clinical observer program at the time of the Penn Conference may choose to attend, as long as there are seats available. Information on the latest conference content, fees, continuing education credits and registration details are here.

Can I use a credit card to pay for my visit?

We do not accept credit cards at present. You may send a check or wire the money (payment/wire transfer details will be on the invoice). We do ask that your payment be made before your visit begins.

At what stage is payment required?

Once your visit is confirmed, we will invoice you for the amount payable. Please ensure that you send payment before your visit begins.