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9 International Student Essentials: Your Checklist for Moving to the US


You’ve been accepted to a university in the United States. Now you have to decide what to pack for your big adventure. It can seem overwhelming, but we designed this checklist for moving to the U.S. so you know everything you need to bring, and nothing you don’t.

Checklist for Moving to the U.S.

These are the essential items that you need to pack, and a few optional items that might help you feel more at home in the United States.

1. Passport  A valid passport should be at the top of your checklist for moving to the US. You will need a passport in order to identify yourself, board the plane and get through customs in the United States. Also, a valid passport is required to show proof of age in many college towns; state, local and country IDs may not be accepted. 

Make a photocopy of your passport and visa and pack them separately from your physical passport. That way, if your passport is lost or stolen, you can deal with the situation more easily.

2. Flight documents Bring a copy of your flight documents as well so you have all of your flight numbers handy. Keep all your travel details handy on your phone and share them with your family. 

3. Important documents Keep these documents close by. Do not pack them in your checked luggage. You’re much better off carrying them in a backpack or purse that stays with you. That way, if your luggage gets lost or diverted, you still have the essentials.

  • Student visa
  • Insurance documents
  • Medical records
  • Academic documents
  • Contact list
  • Admissions letter
  • Contact information for your college

4. Money Most stores, restaurants and even cab drivers in the United States take credit cards and debit cards, but it’s a good idea to have some American cash with you when you land. Some businesses do not take traveler’s checks, so don’t rely on them for your only method of payment. ATMs to retrieve cash are readily available at the airport, on campus, and in city center. 

5. Medicine Prescription medicines and copies of your prescriptions should be in your carry-on bag. If you carry non-prescription medication, keep it in the original container so customs agents can see what it is.

6. Electrical Adaptors Depending on where you come from, you may not be able to plug in your devices when you get to the United States. Different countries use different electricity standards. Get an adaptor, or several, before you leave so you can charge everything when you arrive.

7. Entertainment Items You’re going to spend several hours in airplanes. Make sure you bring along books, music players, games or other entertainment. At very least, bring a headset so you can use the in-flight entertainment system.

8. Clothes The United States is a large country with many different climates. Make sure you research the region to which you’ll be traveling. In some cases, you might need a heavy coat and boots, while in other places you might need shorts and a swimsuit. Also, don’t forget to pack at least one outfit for formal occasions with shoes to match.

9. Personal Items While these items aren’t essential, they can help make you more comfortable during your time in the United States.

  • Hygiene products You may not be able to find the specific brand of deodorant, shampoo, pad, or other personal hygiene product you like best. So bring along a supply in your checked luggage.
  • Family photos Photos of friends and family can help you feel more connected to them. Plus, they’re useful for decorating your dorm room.
  • Extra glasses or contacts If you wear glasses or contacts, it’s smart to bring an extra set along in case you lose or break your everyday pair.
  • Snacks from home Having some snacks, candy or comfort foods from home can help ease homesickness. Check the US customs site as certain perishable and other foods are not allowed in through customs. 
  • Journal Writing down your experiences can help you capture the amazing journey you’re about to start. 
  • Camera You might have a camera built into your cell phone. If not, bring one along, you’ll want to record all of your new experiences.

Remember that you can purchase many things in the United States. Any item that is too big or heavy to be transported easily might be better left at home. But with this checklist for moving to the U.S., you’ll have all of the essentials.