Pre-Departure Orientation. MUST-HAVE’s before you leave for the US!

So,you have finally bagged that coveted admit and are all set to go !

As promised, here’s the checklist on what to expect before , during and after the journey to your dream destination – the USA.

Your dreams are no longer just dreams! This is really happening!
  • Let the international student advisor know about your travel plans and expected arrival date. Likewise, give your family members who are staying behind your contact information in the United States.
  • Find out about any income tax filing requirements for your home country before you leave.
    And necessarily the Immigration Check Not required – ECNR needs a Degree Certificate.
  • If your parents or guardian will not be handling your financial affairs in your absence, arrange for an appropriate ‘power of attorney’ for the person who will be taking care of your affairs.
  • Visit your doctor and dentist before you leave. Tell your doctor about your trip, so he or she can give you any required inoculations. Also arrange for an eye examination, so you can carry an up-to-date prescription in case you need to replace your glasses or contact lenses.
  • Immunizations – Check with your university what is needed & get it done from your family doctor and record all the immunizations chart on a letterhead.
  • Don’t forget to reconfirm your reservations 72 hours before departure, and to arrive at the airport early, at least 2 hours prior to your flight.
Packing for a new life in another country can be HARD.


The following checklist will help you make sure you haven’t missed anything important:

  • Money, credit cards, checkbook, traveler’s checks, financial records (copy of bank statements and list of account numbers), PIN codes for your bank cards
  • Emergency Money (keep US$100 hidden somewhere on your person in the event of an emergency) KEEP SOME LOOSE CHANGE FOR BAGGAGE TROLLEYS $ BILLS – this might come in handy.
  • Pack enough clothing for a week – including shoes, coats, cold weather clothing, and rain gear. DON’T BUY WINTER JACKETS, THEY’RE BETTER THERE.
  • Medical and dental records, including immunization and vaccination records and prescriptions, eyeglasses, insurance records
Your passport is your best friend until you get to the US.


  • Marriage certificate and birth certificates for all family members
  • Passport and plane tickets, Form I-20
  • National and international driver’s licenses
  • A list of the names, addresses, telephone numbers, and email addresses of key contacts, both in the US and at home, including the contact information for friends and family who live in the US, Business cards, books, including a dictionary and phrase book
  • Academic documents, such as the school’s course catalog and other material you received from the school. Official academic transcripts and English translations
  • You should bring enough money with you to cover your first month’s expenses until you are able to transfer funds from abroad. (look at your budget to be sure).
  • Make two photocopies of any important document. Leave one copy at home, and bring one copy with you, but keep it separate from the originals. It might be worthwhile to bring several spare sets of passport photographs in case you need to get a new passport or visa.

The following items may seem inconsequential, but you will find them very useful: pen and pad of paper, safety pins, paper clips, sewing kit, extra buttons, nylon cord, first aid kit, alarm clock or watch, calculator, flashlight, spare batteries, plastic bags, and duct tape. Also a small lock for your luggage. Don’t forget your cooking vessels! For example – a pressure cooker.


Label, label, label! Everything.


Label your luggage inside and out with your name and your university’s name and address. If your luggage is lost in transit, this will help the airline return it to you. Needless to say, critical documents, medicines and other supplies should be carried in your carry-on luggage. Your carry-on bag should also include one change of clothing.

It can be very expensive to transport a lot of belongings. It is better to buy what you need in the US.

Be as straightforward with the Customs agents as possible.


When you arrive in the US, you will have to go through Customs and Immigration. They will ask you questions about your purpose for visiting the US. Your answer should be “Student”. Keep your answers simple and direct. If they want to know the name of the school, tell them the name of the school, without any extraneous information. If they want more information, they will ask additional questions I-94 FORM AND CUSTOMS FORM

New Online I-94 system: Under the new system you don’t need to fill the paper form. After your travel, you can access the form using New Automated I-94 system is implemented from April 26th 2013. Hard Copy of Form I-94 can be found at

As per the new SEVIS RULES your I-20 that is returned to you in a sealed envelope is scanned for it’s bar code – this automatically lets the University know that the particular student has entered the country.

You may also be asked whether you are bringing in any food. Do not bring any food with you. Food you received on the plane should be left on the plane. It is forbidden to bring perishable foodstuffs, such as fruit, vegetables, and meat, or plants into the US. Also forbidden are articles made from certain protected species of animals.

Sadly, you’ll have to leave behind all of that delicious looking food.

If you bring in more than US$10,000 in US or foreign currency you must declare the amount to customs upon entering or leaving the country.


BAGGAGE: Two bags one as big as 32” long and one carry bag the weight should not exceed more than 44lbs /or 70kgs ( you can also check with your airlines ; some good ones are Emirates and Lufthansa)

Arrive 2 hours before the flight. You will most likely arrive in one of the following gateway cities: Atlanta, Boston, Chicago, Dallas, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Orlando, Pittsburgh, San Francisco, Seattle, and Washington DC. These cities have the most international flights. Other airports may have direct flights from selected countries.

If your ultimate destination is elsewhere, you will need to take a connecting flight after you exit immigration and customs. BEFORE you ALIGHT YOU HAVE TO FILL OUT THE CUSTOMS DECLARATION FORM AND AN I-94 FORM. Immigration and Customs can take up to two hours or more, so allow sufficient time to make any connections.

Keep in mind that air travel covering more than a few time zones often results in disorientation called “jetlag”.

Jet-Lag is so very real. And so very annoying.

That’s all for this post! We will also release a list of must-have’s and must-do’s for POST-ARRIVAL so stay tuned!

What are your feelings on packing? Love it? Hate it? Let us know in the comments below!

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