International Students in the US: Pre-Departure and Pre-Arrival Checklist


Sristy Sharma
Updated on Jul 26, 2022 10:29 AM IST

Receiving your acceptance letter is not the end of studying in the US. Instead, it is only the first part. Student visas, and flight tickets, among other things, are what comes next. Here is a pre and on-arrival checklist to study in the US.

International Students in the US: Pre-Departure and Pre-Arrival Checklist

The international student checklist for studying in the US consists of both preparations to be made before flying and actions to be taken after arriving in the country. Although getting an acceptance letter might have made applicants excited, they must ensure that they tick off all the items on pre and on-arrival checklists for studying abroad in the US to ensure that their educational experience remains as smooth and hassle-free as possible.

Checklists sound quite organised, however, they can also be scary. It is not easy to figure out what to include in them and what is notimportant enough to be listed down.

So, here is everything, from a pre-arrival checklist to an on-arrival checklist for studying in the US. Additionally, we have also added some tips on how to manage the various lists and other aspectsfor a positive experience in the US.

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Pre-Departure and Pre-Arrival Checklist for USA

Pre-departure or pre-arrival checklist refers to all the steps and preparations students need to make before they board the flight to the US.

Obtain Student Visa

The very first thing for an international student preparing to go to the US is to get a US visa. They will have to apply for a US student visa with the representative US consulate/embassy in their country. During the whole process, they will need the following documents:

Once the application is verified by the officials, the student will be asked to appear for a visa interview. Only on clearing the visa interview, they will be issued a US study visa. Ideally, students are advised to apply for the visa at least 4-5 months before they need to fly for their studies as the whole process is often extended to over 2-3 months.

Buy Flight Ticket

Once the student has their study visa, they can book their flight to the US. Since it is an international flight and processing and finalisation might take time in case of unforeseen circumstances, students are advised to book flight tickets at least 1-2 months before they need to fly.

In order to book the flight ticket, the below-mentioned steps shall be followed:

Step 1: Check all the international flights available for the US from their country in the week they need to fly.

Step 2: Decide on the date and flight. The date should be decided upon based on the start date of classes.

Step 3: Request a booking by providing the required information and documents.

Step 4: Make payment and get a receipt in the form of a flight ticket.

In order to book a flight ticket, students shall be required to furnish the following details:

  • Name

  • Age

  • Contact Details (phone number and email address)

  • Permanent Address

  • Residing Address

  • Passport number

  • Visa details

  • Medical History if any

  • Payment Method Choice

Students need to note that flight ticket prices fluctuate a lot on the basis of season, time of booking, and international circumstances. It is better to check all the aspects before finalising the booking. On average, a single-trip flight ticket from India to the US will cost INR 70,000-90,000.

Medical and Travel Insurances

Every investment made in favour of studying abroad is huge and creates a huge financial burden on students. The collateral expenses of medical and travel contingencies should not be ignored, as they will only end up causing trouble for students. Hence, they should get medical and travel insurance before arriving in the US.

Students are advised to get insurance with the condition of them becoming effective as stipulated. The stipulation will allow students to decide when the insurance cover becomes active, rather than from the get-go. They can activate travel insurance from the day of their travel, and medical insurance from the day they land in the US.

Finalise Accommodation

As international student life in US will constitute accommodation and various other basic necessities, students need to finalise their accommodation type and all related formalities well before they fly to the US.

Students must first contact their university and confirm the available options, their rentals, and attached facilities. After proper analysis, they must finalise and make a down payment to their selected propertys owner. This downpayment should act as a token and must be proportionate to five to seven per cent of the decided monthly rent. Students must get a formal receipt of the transaction and finalise all other related formalities to avoid any confusion on reaching the US.

Finalise Travel Plans

Even as students book direct flights to the US, it is obviously not possible that they will reach their accommodation or university directly. They will have to opt for a short or long-duration commute to reach their destination, accommodation, or university.

In this case, the students need to use their connections to know about public transport or another transport facility that may be available when they exit the US airport after all formalities. They can connect with university seniors, relatives, or even Indian Mission in US or US Mission in India to get more information.

Bank Account & Security Account

In the US, international students have to transact in USD and they cannot possibly go to get their currency exchanged every other day. Even in periodic intervals, physically going to the bank every now and then will only prove hectic, impractical, and risky.

Students are advised to connect with any merchant bank branches in the US or with any partner or multinational banks operating in the US. After proper research, students can set up a bank account that shall automatically receive funds from India and convert them into USD from INR. In this case, the student can directly withdraw money in USD and the bank account will also help in adding credibility to students as they work and transact in the US.

Apart from a bank account, students are advised to set up a conditional security deposit account, which gets activated on their arrival in the US. They will have to fund the account with a lump sum amount of one year of residential expenses.

Re-check All Required Documents

Lastly, at least two weeks before students are set to board their flight to the US, they need to recheck all their documents and pre-arrival checklist.

In order to ensure that nothing misses out, students are advised to maintain a checklist in which they pre-list all the items and documents they need to confirm and recheck. This will allow students a stress-free process as well as confident finalisation.

Documents to Carry While Travelling to USA

Students will need to carry a whole lot of documents with them as they fly to US. These are:

Type of Documents

Documents Included

Educational Documents

Academic Transcripts

Standardised Test Scores

English Proficiency Test Certificate

Certificates and Transcripts

Work Experience or Practical Experience

University-Specific Documents

Acceptance Letter

Academic Resume



Financial Statements

Travel Documents

Flight Ticket


Student Visa Grant

Visa Application

Travel History

Character Certificate/Police Verification

Additional Documents

Medical Certificate

Personal Identification Documents

Ctizenship Proofs (Birth Certifcate)

Copies of relevant documents

Bank Passbooks

Receipts of Transactions

Passport Size Photographs

Scanned Signature

Note 1: Students may be asked to carry additional documents on a case-by-case basis. In addition, it is recommended that they carry a soft copy or scanned versions of all the documents which must be password-protected.

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On-Arrival CheckList for International Students in US

On-arrival checklist refers to all those actions that an international student needs to undertake after arriving in the US. The checklist must include the following:

Public Transport

As an international student, public transport will prove to be the best commuting option in the US. Transportation in the country is cheaper in comparison to self-owned or rented cars.

Students can research whether there are any cards available for subscription, as there are many offers and discounts applicable on these cards, and it is easier to transact with authorities.

In the case of card subscription, learn how and where the application can be made, and how can it be operated. Most travel cards have to be recharged regularly, for which students need to find out the procedure beforehand.

Study Language & Culture

On reaching US, students must make use of their first 3-4 months to explore, understand, and fit in the lifestyle, language, and culture of the city. They are not required to alter themselves, but they do need to make themselves more accustomed to their surrounding.

For the same, they can visit local popular places, travel on foot in the city, and sometimes even sit out in open or common public areas and observe people. These practices might be differently applied and adopted by students as per their personalities. They are, however, advised to ensure to not lose their own identity while they make themselves comfortable.

Connectivity Plans

Connectivity plans include finding out the companies which offer call plans, network plans, and messaging plans. Indian connectivity plans shall bear heavy roaming charges in the US for the student, and so they need to explore the available options and choose the best one. They can apply for the help of their peers and seniors in this case.

Important Tips for International Students in USA

Here are a few tips for international students, that they can apply as they cross out their pre-arrival checklist and on-arrival checklist items.

Plan First Three Weeks

Students are advised to plan their first three weeks of stay in the US before flying to the country.

Going to a new country and settling there is privy to various uncertainties and students can reduce the adverse impact by planning a few things beforehand. As they plan their tasks and schedule for the first three weeks, they will find it easier to cope with the real situations when they land in the US.

In order to properly plan their stay for the first few weeks, students are advised to include the following in their plans:

  • Find out how much time it takes to reach the university/college. Even in the case of on-campus accommodation, it might take 10-15 minutes to reach the class.

  • Research and find the distance between different classes and plan classes accordingly.

  • Plan evenings and weekends according to priority tasks, such as activating bank accounts, getting public transport cards, etc.

  • Plan weekends to include exploring the culture and environment of the city.

  • If the meals are to be arranged by you, then plan evenings to visit departmental and grocery stores in the neighbourhood.

  • Plan at least one local tourist location visit with university friends to get more familiar.

  • Keep some time on weekends to socialise.

Weather Tracking

The US is a vast country, and weather conditions not only vary nationwide but even statewide. Hence, ensure to do proper research about the ongoing weather conditions in the city. Students are advised to research the climatic conditions of the city, all the seasons it endures, common temperatures and weather conditions it faces, and how local people plan activities and spend their day.

Students must pack accordingly as they will possibly not visit their homes until semester or term vacations.


Students are advised to plan their primary and secondary budgets before they fly to the US. They can create a yearly or monthly master budget on the basis of their researchs credibility and depth.

In the case of a yearly master budget, students can allot a fixed amount for yearly expenses and create sub-monthly budgets. The yearly budget shall include monthly expenses and income or finance sources. Students are advised to consider lower or higher expenses in accordance with the general conditions around a particular month. Monthly budgets must identify expenses like groceries, travel, medical, interests, entertainment, etc.

Students are advised to identify income and savingsin their budgets to ensure their finance flow does not catch them off guard.

Mental Preparation

Students need to mentally prepare themselves before going to the US. This might seem like an obvious or less important element, however, it is something that will help them through everything they face.

Going to a new country and unfamiliar surroundings will kick in various depressing emotions like homesickness, loneliness, hopelessness, self-doubt, etc. A good mindset will help students in overcoming the cultural shock and allow them to be better placed to face uncertainties, which again are a surety.

We hope that students will find themselves more clear about what they need to do after receiving their acceptance letters. As a continuation to all the advice listed above, we suggest that students ensure to plan their own checklists separately and ensure it contains their individual needs and requirements as well.

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Do I need to prepare a budget before I fly to the US for my studies?

Yes, you need to prepare a budget before you fly to the US for your studies. The living expenses during your stay in the US are going to be quite expensive, which coupled with tuition fees and travel expenses, can create a huge burden on your finances. To avoid this, you need to prepare an estimated budget and track your finances.

When is the right time to start preparing to fly to the US?

The right time to start preparing to fly to the US is when the visa interview slot has been booked. Once your visa interview slot is finalised, you need to prepare your pre-arrival and post-arrival checklists. These checklists will help in organisation of your preparation to fly to US. You can also start preparing after submitting your admission and visa applications.

How can I find accommodations in the US while being in India?

You can easily find accommodations in the US while being in India. You can connect with your university for details on on-campus accommodation. For information about off-campus accommodation, you can connect with other international students and agencies online. Alternatively, you can consult study abroad experts who can assist you throughout your search and help you book good accommodation facility.

Can I ask for a refund on my fight ticket if my visa application gets rejected?

Yes, you may ask for a refund on your flight ticket if your visa application gets rejected. However, this refund shall have no connection with the visa application rejection. The flight companies operate separately, and have their own set of rules and regulations regarding ticket cancellation and refund policies. If you have a doubt about your visa application, you can either wait for your visa or check policies beforehand.

Which documents must I carry with me to study in the US?

You must carry all those documents with you to study in that US that can be used to establish your identity, nationality, and location. These documents include government-issued identification, passport, birth certificate, visa documents, medical certificates, insurance certificates, etc. You need to ensure that all the documents which you might need even remotely must be carried with you as you cannot possibly return to retrieve them.

Is my driving license valid in the US?

No, your driving license is not valid in the US. Unless your driving license has territorial validity in the US, you cannot use it to drive motorised vehicles in the country. However, you can use your driving license as identification proof. Although specific government-issued identification is preferable, a driving license is an admittable proof in times of emergency.

I do not have any chronic disease. Do I still need medical insurance to study in the US?

Even if you do not have any chronic disease, you must have medical insurance to study in the US. Healthcare and medical assistance in the US is extremely expensive, however, having medical insurance can not only help in subsidising the fee charged by the hospital, clinic, or doctor but will also help in covering extremely high costs.

Do I need to change my phone operator to study in the US?

Yes, you may need to change your phone operator to study in the US, except if your operator is a multinational company providing active services in the US. Otherwise, your operator will charge for roaming services, which are calculated on the basis of distance from the operator’s general administration. Since there is a huge distance between US and India, you might end up paying a lot of unnecessary costs.

Which is the best public transportation to use as an international student in the US?

Trains and subways are the best public transportation to use as an international student in the US. The system is so well developed that you can commute between neighbouring US cities within a short period of time. Moreover, the services are run under government-fixed fares, which makes them quite affordable. You can also get a permanent subway card made for everyday use. 

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