Packing Advice that International College Student Should Consider


Deciding on which clothes to bring and listing of the school necessities is already difficult. However, packing for your international flight is a lot more difficult because as you add more items to your luggage you also add additional cost for shipping. So, it is very crucial that you pack wisely. Consider only the things that you really need to give you a good start when you arrive in the U.S. There are items that can help you cut on cost when you purchase them when you arrive. Later on, when you have adapted to your new environment and have saved a significant amount of money, you can decide to spend on items that you want.

To help you out, below is a list of the things you need to bring when you leave and the things you need to buy when you arrive.

Things to Bring When You Leave Home

* The right amount of appropriate clothes. This means clothes that would the weather in your destination. Surely, you have a good number of this kind of clothes. Choose the ones you really like and you are comfortable with. Buying clothes when you arrive can be very expensive.

* Toiletries and bath towel. You would surely use these when you arrive at your new temporary home.

* Proof of identity such as student visa and passport. Aside from this proof of identification, it would be better to check with your university’s international student office to determine what other requirements you need to bring.

* Multipurpose travel adaptor. The buildings and institutions in your country might possible have a different type of outlet compared to the country of your destination. SO, it would be a smart idea to bring an adaptor, particularly a multipurpose one, so you can use all your electronic devices.

* Items with personal significance such as mementos. Though you cannot bring huge, tangible heirlooms, you can bring photos and accessories with sentimental value that would always remind you of home and your family.

Things to Buy When You Arrive in Your Destination

* Multipurpose cleaning wipes. These are small items but have a lot of uses. You’ll need a lot of these when cleaning and arranging your new room.

* Shower shoes and slippers. If you have your own bathroom you can just buy the slippers. The bathrobe is also important, so buy at least one.

* Multi-plugs and extension cords. This would prove to be useful when you are already in your new room. However, you need to check first with your new university whether or not keeping of these items is allowed.

* First-aid kit. Even if you’re not an international student, keeping a handy first-aid kit is always useful and beneficial.

* Sewing kit. You should at least have the basic items such as needle, string, and scissors.

* Hangers and tableware. These would keep your closet and your mini-kitchen organized and functional.

* Shelves and storage boxes. You can buy these later on, as you will need these when you already have many books to read and use as references.

Aside from the above, you also need to buy USB drive, books and other academic resources. 

Marian Moore – Social Media Manager

Learn more about Greenhandshake

H-4 Visa EAD for Spouses

2The law was passed in 2014/2015. H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrants can file Form I-765 and Application for Employment Authorization.

Employment Authorization for Certain H-4 Dependent Spouses final rule (H-4 rule) took effect last May 26, 2015. It seeks to support the objectives of attracting and retaining highly-skilled foreign workers and minimizing disruption to businesses in the United States resulting from H-1B non-immigrants who choose not to remain in the United States and pursue LPR status.

Eligibility Requirements

Eligibility is granted to H-4 dependent spouses of H-1B non-immigrants. However your H-1B non-immigrant spouse must be:

– The principal beneficiary of an approved Form I-140 and Immigrant Petition for Alien Worker.

– He or she has been granted H-1B status under sections 106 (a) and (b) of the AC21. The AC21 authorizes H-1B non-immigrants seeking employment-based and legitimate permanent residence to work and remain in the United States beyond the six-year limit.

How to Apply

You must file Form I-765 and receive an Employment Authorization Document (EAD/Form I-766) from the USCIS before you are granted permission to work.

USCIS continues to accept the older version of Form I-765 with edition date of 05/27/08 or later. However, the Service encourages H-4 applicants to use the newer version with an edition date of 02/13/15 to prevent delays or the need for USCIS to issue you request for evidence.

Follow these steps to prevent your application from being rejected:

Complete Form I-765 based on Instructions for Form I-765. USCIS will reject any application which has not been signed or accompanied by the proper filing fees. The fee is $380. You cannot file Form I-765 for category (c) (26) together with a Form I-485, Application to Register Permanent Residence or Adjust Status at the Lock-box address for Form I-765 category (c) (26).

In filing a Form I-485, you must follow the Form I-485 instructions and submit your Form I-485 to the correct filing address. If you file a Form I-765 together with a Form I-485 at the filing address for Form I-765 category (c) (26), USCIS will reject the Form I-485 and corresponding fees. Additionally, if you included the fees for both forms on the same check or money order, USCIS may also reject your Form I-765 for category (c) (26). Note: If you are filing Form I-765 together with Form I-485 at the USCIS location noted for Form I-485, specify your work eligibility category as (c) (9) and pay only the Form I-485 filing fee (and not the Form I-765 filing fee) to avoid delays in processing.  

Submit supporting evidence since this will reduce the possibility that USCIS will still ask you for more evidence.

Marian Moore – Social Media Manager

Learn more about Greenhandshake

J-1 visa: Exchange Visitor

j1visa1 J-1 classification or (exchange visitors program) is meant for individuals planning to participate in an approved course. There are multiple purposes such as teaching; delivering lectures; studying; conducting research; observing; consulting; demonstrating unique skills; undergoing training; and, receiving medical education or training.

The Department of State appoints public as well as private entities to act as exchange sponsors for the Exchange Visitor Program. J-1 non-immigrants are sponsored by an exchange program designated as such by the US State Department. These programs promote the exchange of persons, knowledge and skills. These are in the fields of education, arts, and sciences.

Examples of exchange visitors include but are not limited to the following:
* Professors or scholars
* Research assistants
* Students
* Trainees
* Teachers
* Specialists
* Nannies/Foreign students working as domestic helpers
* Camp counselors

Application Process

The Department of State is in charge of administering the J-1 exchange visitor program. The first step in acquiring a J-1 visa is to submit a DS-2019 Form together with a Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor Status, (formerly known as an IAP-66). This form will be provided by your sponsoring agency. Work closely with officials from your sponsoring agency. They will assist you throughout the entire process.  The Responsible Officer (RO) or Alternate Responsible Officer (ARO) is authorized to issue Form DS-2019. They will provide you with a list of required documents for issuance of a DS-2019.

After obtaining the Form DS-2019, you may apply for a J-1 visa through the State Department at any US embassy or consulate. The waiting time for interview appointment of applicants can vary. Thus, submit your visa application as early as possible (though you are not allowed to enter the United States with J-1 status more than 30 days before your program begins).

Some J-1 non-immigrants enter the United States specifically to work (as researchers or nannies) while others do not. Employment is permitted for J-1 non-immigrants only under the terms of the exchange program. Please check with your sponsoring agency for more information on any restrictions that may apply to working in the United States.  
Family of J-1 Visa Holders

Your spouse and unmarried children under 21 years of age, regardless of nationality, are entitled to J-2 classification. Your spouse and children are also entitled to work authorization. However, their income may not be used to support you.  To apply for work authorization as a J-2 non-immigrant, your spouse or child must file Form I-765 or Application for Employment Authorization. For more information on the application procedures, check out the “Work Authorization” page.

Marian Moore – Social Media Manager

Learn more about Greenhandshake

Change of Status: B-2 (visitor) to F-1 (student)


   B-2 visitor or B-2 prospective student is required to change his/her status to study full-time in the US. Full-time study to earn a degree is prohibited by immigration authorities before COS approval. B-2 students must apply for change of status before the date stamped on their I-94 cards.

* Abide by the Change of Status Outline if you plan to stay in the US during the semester you are applying for.

* These guidelines do not apply if you intend to return to your home country and go through the embassy process before the start of your school.

Change in status is not a change of visa!

You can only obtain a visa from the American embassy or consulate in your home country. If the USCIS approves your application, it is possible to stay in the US provided you follow F-1 rules. If you leave the country, it is necessary to secure an F-1 visa from the embassy in your country to re-enter the United States.


USCIS officers determine eligibility for change of status. This is different whether or not a person qualifies for issuance of an I-20 and F-1 status. A prospective student becomes eligible for issuance of an I-20. However, the change of status application will NOT BE APPROVED if he or she is not eligible. B2 visitor visa-holders are given a fixed duration of stay (three to six months). This is marked on their I-94 cards.

* I-94 card will be stamped B-2 until 05/25/2015.

* File applications before the stamped date. This cannot be beyond the date of arrival at the service center.

* This cannot be longer than the 30-day gap between categories.

(For example, if Chris arrived on 5/01/2015 at COS to file for F1, he will be ineligible since the next semester is longer than the 30 day period is more than his B-2 stay allowance.)

* COS for B2 to F1 is difficult. There is generally a high incidence of denial.



To change from non-immigrant visa to F-1 student status, you must be accepted to the college for a full-course of study. Once you have been accepted, ask for an appointment with the International Students Counselor.

Bring the following items:

(1) Pay SEVIS I-901 Fee: Effective September 1, 2004, the US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires the collection of a one-time fee of $200 from new F-1 students. The fee covers operational costs of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). This is a central computerized system that maintains and manages data related to international students (F-1 status), exchange visitors (J-1 status), and their dependents (F-2 and J-2) during their stay in the United States.

The SEVIS fee must be paid and processed before filing the I-539 Change of Status Application. A copy of the payment receipt must be submitted with the application.

The fee can be paid by mail (Form I-901) together with a check or money order drawn from a US bank and payable in US dollars. The fee can also be paid electronically by completing Form I-901 through the internet. Use a Visa, MasterCard, or American Express credit card. For more detailed information check out

(2) Fee of $290: The check or money order must be payable to the Department of Homeland Security. Write your admission number (number on your I-94 and I-20), name (if not printed on your check), and type of application you are requesting in front of the check or money order.

(3) A letter requesting the change of status and explaining why you did not enter the US on an F-1 visa.

(4) Completed Form I-539, Application to Extend/Change Nonimmigrant Status. The International Student Counselor can help with items that you do not understand.

(5) Your Form I-20 (pages 1-3 must be signed on line 11.

(6) Financial documentation- bank statement and affidavit of support (Form I-134) if the money is submitted by another person.

(7) Bring your passport, current non-immigrant Visa and I-94 card. Copies will be made and sent with the application.

Marian Moore – Social Media Manager

Learn more about Greenhandshake