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The Big Move: A Pre-Arrival Checklist for International Students Studying Abroad

Studying abroad is an exciting adventure. However, it can be difficult to know exactly what you need to bring and leave behind before hopping on a plane to study in Canada, the United States, or the United Kingdom—especially during COVID-19. From what to do before you start packing and a handy document checklist on what to expect upon arriving at your study abroad destination, we’ve compiled a list to ensure your experience is as smooth as possible.

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COVID-19 Travel Information

COVID-19 travel requirements continue to evolve on a frequent basis. We recommend that you monitor the following websites for updates and the latest information:

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Before You Start Packing

Before you start packing your suitcase, you should:

  • Verify luggage restrictions with the airline 
  • Pack for all sorts of weather
  • Check what you can’t bring through customs, such as animals, plants, fresh fruits and vegetables, meat products, controlled substances, etc.

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Document Checklist

Upon arrival, you will be asked to show your travel and study-related documents to the Border Control Officers for clearance before exiting the airport. They must be physical, paper documents—not stored on an electronic device, such as a mobile phone or tablet. Ensure that they are easily accessible so you can produce them when asked, so don’t check them in with your luggage. 

Tip: A folder will help you keep everything organized and in one spot.

You should have:

  • A valid passport
  • A valid study visa
  • A copy of your passport and visa (be sure to also email a scan to yourself as well as a family member)
  • Your Letter of Acceptance/Admission and a printout of any relevant information on the program/course you are studying
  • Original or certified copies of your academic transcripts and qualifications
  • Proof of payment for accommodation, tuition fees, etc.
  • Other personal identification documents, such as a birth certificate, ID card, and driver’s licence
  • Any required COVID-19 tests or vaccination results (if applicable)
  • X-rays (if required)
  • Evidence that you have enough money to study abroad, such as bank statements used to support your visa application
  • Accommodation confirmation and full address
  • University or college address and contact details
  • Any health or travel insurance documents
  • The college or university’s 24-hour helpline
  • Details of any prearranged transportation provided by the college or university (you are encouraged to book this if available)
  • Any additional required documentation

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What to Take with You

You should also consider bringing the following with you:

  • Cash. You can set up a bank account when you arrive, so don’t carry too much.
  • Prescription medication. However, you don’t need more than a few weeks’ worth. Bring any prescriptions with you (in English), so you can have them filled when you arrive. Be sure to check what medication you are allowed to bring with you. 
  • Travel adaptor, laptop, phone, and any other devices you will require.
  • Warm clothing.
  • A list of items in your luggage and a description of your luggage—don’t forget to attach a tag with your full name and telephone number. 
  • A few face masks and sanitizing products. Reminder: You can’t take liquids more than 100 ml on the plane with you.

What Not to Take with You

Avoid bringing the following:

  • Bedding and linens
  • Kitchen equipment
  • Large amounts of toiletries—you can purchase additional items inexpensively upon arrival
  • Meat, dairy, fruit, vegetables, and potato-based products—these items are strictly prohibited

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What to Expect Upon Arrival

Upon arriving by air, you will pass through immigration control before picking up your baggage. Make sure you have the documents mentioned above easily accessible.

The Immigration Officer will ask you some questions to ensure that you’re coming to your study abroad destination for genuine study purposes and that you intend to leave after completing your studies. You must be able to answer these questions clearly without having to rely on an interpreter

Here is a list of common questions that an Immigration Officer may ask you:

  • What is your name? 
  • Where are you from? What is your home address? 
  • What are your mother’s and father’s names?
  • What is your birth date and where were you born?
  • What university or college are you going to attend? 
  • What program/course are you going to study and how long is it? 
  • What are your plans after completing the program/course? 
  • Who packed your bag(s)? Do you know what’s inside the bag(s)? 
  • How much cash are you carrying with you? 
  • Do you have relatives/friends/family here? If so, where do they live? If not, where will you stay? 
  • Is someone coming to pick you up at the airport?

You should respond to all questions asked by the Immigration Officer with simple and clear answers. If you don’t hear or understand a question, you can ask the officer for clarification.

Next, you can proceed to collect your baggage and officially begin your study abroad adventure!

Ready to go? Start exploring your options to study abroad on ApplyBoard!