The Ultimate FINAL Checklist for International Students Moving to USA

"Make your move to the USA as an international student seamless with this essential checklist. From setting up a bank account to finding the right mobile apps, discover valuable tips and resources to navigate your new academic journey and make the most of your time abroad

The Ultimate FINAL Checklist for International Students Moving to USA
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Apr 29, 2023 07:22 AM
Are you an international student planning to pursue your Master's degree in the USA? Congratulations on taking this exciting step towards your academic and personal growth! As you embark on this journey, it's crucial to be well-prepared and equipped with a final checklist that covers all the essential aspects of moving to the USA. In this comprehensive study abroad guide, we will walk you through the ultimate checklist to ensure a smooth transition and help you make the most of your experience in the USA.

Bank Accounts: Managing Your Finances

One of the first things you should consider upon arriving in the USA is opening a bank account. Having a local bank account offers numerous benefits, such as easy access to funds, efficient payment options, and the ability to establish credit history. To get started, follow these steps:

Research Different Banks:

Research and compare various banks to find the one that suits your needs. Consider factors such as branch accessibility, online banking features, and student-friendly services.

Choose the Right Account Type:

Select an account type that aligns with your requirements. Opt for a student account if available, as it often comes with additional perks such as waived fees.

Gather Required Documents:

Prepare the necessary documents, including your passport, I-20 form, and proof of address. Visit the bank's website or contact their customer service to confirm the exact requirements.
Once you have opened a bank account, familiarize yourself with the banking services and digital tools available. Many banks offer mobile apps for convenient account management, mobile check deposits, and money transfer options. It's also advisable to set up online banking and sign up for electronic statements to stay organized and reduce paper clutter.

SIM Card and Mobile Connectivity

Staying connected is vital when you move to a new country, and obtaining a local SIM card is the most cost-effective way to do so in the USA. Follow these steps to ensure seamless mobile connectivity:

Choose a Mobile Service Provider:

Research different mobile service providers and compare their plans and coverage areas. Consider factors such as network reliability, data packages, and international calling options.

Purchase a SIM Card:

Once you have selected a provider, visit their nearest store or website to purchase a SIM card. Make sure to check if your phone is unlocked or if you need to get it unlocked before using a different SIM card.

Activate and Set Up Your SIM:

Follow the instructions provided by the service provider to activate your SIM card. You may need to provide identification and personal information during the process.

Configure Your Phone Settings:

Set up your phone's network settings to ensure proper connectivity. If needed, consult the service provider's website or customer support for assistance.
Having a local SIM card allows you to have a local phone number, access affordable data and calling plans, and stay connected with your peers and university. Make sure to explore the service provider's additional features, such as international calling packages or student-specific plans, to make the most of your mobile connectivity.

Essential Records and Documents

When moving to the USA, it's crucial to have all your essential records and documents in order. These include identification documents, academic records, and important medical and insurance papers. Here's a breakdown of what you need to consider:

Identification Documents:

Ensure you have a valid passport and the necessary visas for your stay in the USA. Keep these documents in a safe and easily accessible place.

Academic Records:

Verify that you have all your academic records, such as transcripts, diplomas, and certificates. These will be essential during the admission and enrollment process.

Medical and Insurance Documents:

Have a copy of your medical records, including vaccinations and prescriptions. Additionally, arrange health insurance coverage to ensure you are protected during your stay.
Required Documents Checklist
Valid passport with at least six months of validity
Student Visa
F-1 or J-1 visa for studying in the USA
I-20 Form
Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status
Academic Transcripts
Official transcripts from previous educational institutions
Degree Certificates
Copies of your undergraduate and any previous degree certificates
Financial Documents
Bank statements, sponsorship letters, or proof of financial resources
Medical Records
Medical history, vaccinations, and any required medical documents
Insurance Documents
Health insurance policy documents and coverage details
Housing Confirmation
Proof of accommodation or housing arrangement
Organize these documents in a secure folder or file and make both physical and digital copies. It's also wise to carry your identification and important documents with you while traveling to the USA, rather than packing them in checked luggage. Having all the necessary records and documents readily available will make the transition smoother and facilitate your interactions with universities, healthcare providers, and other institutions.

Education Loan: Managing Your Financial Aid

For many international students, education loans play a crucial role in financing their studies in the USA. Proper management of your financial aid is essential to ensure a smooth repayment process. Consider the following steps:

Understand the Loan Terms:

Familiarize yourself with the terms and conditions of your education loan, including interest rates, repayment periods, and any grace periods. Take note of repayment start dates to plan your finances accordingly.

Stay Informed about Repayment Options:

Research and understand the various repayment options available to you. Some loans offer income-driven repayment plans, deferment, or forbearance options in case of financial hardships. Stay in touch with your loan provider for any updates or changes.

Explore Scholarship and Grant Opportunities:

Continuously search for scholarship and grant opportunities to supplement your finances. Research local, national, and university-specific scholarships and grants that cater to international students.
By understanding the terms of your education loan and exploring additional financial aid options, you can manage your finances effectively and minimize the burden of loan repayment.

Currency Exchange: Maximizing Your Money

When moving to the USA, you will need to exchange your currency to US dollars. Here's what you need to know about currency exchange:

Determine the Best Exchange Rates:

Compare exchange rates from different sources such as banks, currency exchange offices, and online platforms. Look for competitive rates and low fees to maximize your money.

Be Aware of Exchange Rate Fluctuations:

Exchange rates can fluctuate daily. Keep an eye on the rates and consider exchanging your currency when the rates are favorable.

Carry Sufficient Cash and Use Cards Wisely:

Have a mix of cash and cards to cover your immediate expenses. It's advisable to carry a reasonable amount of US dollars in cash for initial expenses upon arrival. Use your cards for larger purchases or emergencies, but be mindful of any foreign transaction fees or conversion charges.
While exchanging currency, it's important to prioritize safety and choose reputable sources for your exchange needs. Consider exchanging your currency at reputable banks or authorized currency exchange offices to ensure the legitimacy of the transaction.

Learn to Cook: Navigating Food Culture

Learning to cook your own meals can be a valuable skill that not only saves you money but also allows you to experience the local food culture. Consider the following tips:

Basic Kitchen Essentials:

Equip yourself with basic kitchen essentials, such as pots, pans, utensils, and a small set of spices and condiments. Start with the essentials and gradually expand your collection as you gain more experience.

Online Recipes and Tutorials:

Utilize online resources such as cooking websites, YouTube channels, and mobile apps that offer a wide range of recipes and cooking tutorials. These platforms often provide step-by-step instructions and helpful tips for beginners.

Explore Local Markets and Grocery Stores:

Visit local markets and grocery stores to discover a variety of fresh produce, ingredients, and cultural specialties. Experiment with different ingredients to add flavor and diversity to your meals.
Learning to cook not only gives you control over your dietary choices but also provides a rewarding experience of creating delicious and nutritious meals. It can also be a great way to bond with fellow international students by organizing cooking sessions or potluck gatherings.

Smart Shopping: Budgeting and Saving

As an international student in the USA, smart shopping techniques can help you stretch your budget and save money. Consider the following strategies:

Create a Budget:

Develop a monthly budget that outlines your income and expenses. Prioritize your needs and allocate funds accordingly. Use budgeting apps or spreadsheets to track your spending and identify areas where you can cut costs.

Utilize Student Discounts:

Take advantage of student discounts available at various stores, restaurants, entertainment venues, and transportation services. Always carry your student ID and inquire about discounts before making a purchase.

Compare Prices and Look for Deals:

Before making a purchase, compare prices online or at different stores to find the best deal. Look for sales, promotions, and clearance sections to save money on clothing, electronics, and other items.
By being mindful of your spending and actively seeking discounts and deals, you can make the most of your budget and save money during your time in the USA.

Install Useful Mobile Apps: Simplifying Your Experience

Mobile apps can be valuable tools to simplify various aspects of your life as an international student. Consider installing the following useful apps:
Install navigation apps like Google Maps or Waze to easily navigate your way around unfamiliar areas, find public transportation routes, and discover nearby amenities.

Language Translation Apps:

Language translation apps such as Google Translate or Microsoft Translator can assist you in communicating with locals and understanding signs or documents in a foreign language.

Study Tools and Note-taking Apps:

Explore study tools and note-taking apps like Evernote, Quizlet, or Microsoft OneNote to enhance your academic experience and stay organized with class materials and study resources.
Essential Mobile Apps
App Name
Google Maps
Navigation, directions, and public transit routes
Language learning app to improve language skills
Note-taking and organization of study materials
Flashcard creation and study tool
Microsoft OneNote
Digital note-taking app for class lectures
Mobile payment app for splitting bills and expenses
Personal finance app for budgeting and expense tracking
Messaging and calling app for staying connected
Additionally, explore university-specific apps and student-oriented platforms that can help you connect with fellow students, access campus resources, and stay updated with important announcements and events.


Congratulations! You have now gained valuable insights into the ultimate final checklist for international students moving to the USA. By following this comprehensive guide, you can ensure a smooth transition and make the most of your academic journey. From setting up bank accounts and obtaining a local SIM card to managing your finances, learning to cook, and utilizing mobile apps, each item on the checklist contributes to a successful and fulfilling experience.


Q: How early should I start preparing the final checklist before moving to the USA for my studies? A: It is recommended to start preparing your final checklist at least a few months before your planned departure. This will give you ample time to gather the necessary documents, make financial arrangements, and complete any required processes in a timely manner.
Q: Do I need to open a bank account in the USA as an international student? A: Opening a bank account in the USA is highly recommended. It provides a secure way to manage your finances, receive funds, and make payments. Look for banks that offer student account options with features such as no monthly fees and convenient online banking services.
Q: Can I use my existing SIM card from my home country in the USA? A: In most cases, your existing SIM card from your home country may not work in the USA. It is advisable to get a local SIM card once you arrive in the USA. This will ensure that you have access to affordable local calling, data, and messaging services.
Q: Are there any scholarship opportunities available for international students studying in the USA? A: Yes, there are various scholarship opportunities available for international students studying in the USA. Research and explore scholarships offered by universities, government organizations, private foundations, and international organizations. Check the eligibility criteria, application deadlines, and requirements for each scholarship.
Q: What are some essential mobile apps that can assist me during my stay in the USA? A: There are several useful mobile apps that can simplify your experience as an international student in the USA. Some essential apps include navigation apps like Google Maps, language translation apps like Google Translate, note-taking apps like Evernote, and study tools like Quizlet. These apps can assist you with navigation, language learning, organization, and academic success.
Q: Do I need to learn how to cook before moving to the USA? A: While it is not mandatory, learning how to cook can be beneficial during your stay in the USA. It allows you to have more control over your dietary choices, save money by preparing your own meals, and experience the local food culture. Online resources, cooking tutorials, and experimenting with different ingredients can help you develop your cooking skills.