Pre-Arrival and Arrival Information for International Students

Welcome to UMass Lowell! The staff at the ISSO are very much looking forward to meeting and working with you upon your arrival on campus.

This page is intended to provide initial F-1 or J-1 international students with the appropriate resources to arrive to UMass Lowell (UML). Please be sure to read through the following key information carefully to prepare you for your arrival to the United States!

  • Be sure to read carefully through the Pre-Arrival Checklist to ensure a smooth start to beginning your journey at UMass Lowell!

    1. Ties to Your Home Country
      Under U.S. law, all applicants for nonimmigrant visas, such as student visas, are viewed as intending immigrants until they can convince the consular officer otherwise. You must therefore be able to show that you have reasons for returning to your home country that are stronger than those for remaining in the United States. "Ties" to your home country are the things that bind you to your hometown, homeland, or current place of residence: job, family, financial prospects that you own or will inherit, investments, etc. If you are a prospective undergraduate, the interviewing officer may ask about your specific intentions or promise of future employment, family or other relationships, educational objectives, grades, long-range plans, and career prospects in your home country.
      Each person's situation is different, of course, and there is no magic explanation or single document, certificate, or letter which can guarantee visa issuance. If you have applied for the U.S. Green Card Lottery, you may be asked if you are intending to immigrate. A simple answer would be that you applied for the lottery since it was available but not with a specific intent to immigrate. If you previously overstayed an authorized stay in the United States, be prepared to explain what happened clearly and concisely, with documentation, if available.

    2. English
      Anticipate that the interview will be conducted in English and not in your native language. One suggestion is to practice English conversation with a native speaker before the interview, but do NOT prepare speeches! If you are coming to the United States solely to study intensive English, be prepared to explain how English will be useful for you in your home country.

    3. Speak for Yourself
      Do not bring parents or family members with you to the interview. The consular officer wants to interview you, not your family. A negative impression is created if you are not prepared to speak on your own behalf. If you are a minor applying for a high school program and need your parents there in case there are questions, for example about funding, they should wait in the waiting room.

    4. Know the Program and How It Fits Your Career Plans
      If you are unable to articulate the reasons you will study in a particular program in the United States, you may not succeed in convincing the consular officer that you are planning to study, rather than to immigrate. You should also be able to explain how studying in the U.S. relates to your future professional career when you return home.

    5. Be Brief
      Because of the volume of applications received, all consular officers are under considerable time pressure to conduct a quick and efficient interview. They must make a decision on the impressions they form during the first minute of the interview. Consequently, what you say first and the initial impression you create are critical to your success. Keep your answers to the officer's questions short and to the point.

    6. Additional Documentation
      It should be immediately clear to the consular officer what written documents you are presenting and what they signify. Lengthy written explanations cannot be quickly read or evaluated. Remember that you will have 2-3 minutes of interview time.

    7. Difficulties Based on Country of Origin
      Applicants from countries suffering economic problems or from countries where many students have remained in the United States as immigrants may have more difficulty getting visas. Applicants from these countries are more likely to be seen as intending immigrants and are likely to be asked about job opportunities at home after their study in the United States.

    8. Employment
      Your main purpose in coming to the United States should be to study, not for the chance to work before or after graduation. While many students do work off-campus during their studies, such employment is incidental to their main purpose of completing their U.S. education. You must be able to clearly articulate your plan to return home at the end of your program. If your spouse is also applying for an accompanying F-2 visa, be aware that F-2 dependents cannot, under any circumstances, be employed in the United States. If asked, be prepared to address what your spouse intends to do with his or her time while in the United States. Volunteer work and attending school part-time are permissible F-2 activities.

    9. Dependents Remaining at Home
      If your spouse and children are remaining behind in your country, be prepared to address how they will support themselves in your absence. This can be an especially tricky area if you are the primary source of income for your family. If the consular officer gains the impression that your family will need you to remit money from the United States in order to support them, your student visa application will almost certainly be denied. If your family does decide to join you at a later time, it is helpful to have them apply at the same post where you applied for your visa.

    10. Maintain a Positive Attitude
      Do not engage the consular officer in an argument. If you are denied a student visa, ask the officer for a list of documents he or she would suggest you bring in order to overcome the refusal, and try to get the reason you were denied in writing.
  • Before You Leave Home


    • Make sure you request your airport pick up through our partner vendor.
    • Make sure that you have a place to stay upon arrival (whether this means staying in a local hotel for a few days, or meeting a friend), this should ALREADY be set up prior to you boarding the plane.
    • If you are meeting a friend, make sure you have their contact information(email, phone number, a second number if applicable, their address, etc.)
    • Make sure you received your Airport Pick-up Confirmation prior to boarding

    Do Not:

    • Board your plane prior to confirming your airport pickup.
    • Arrive in the U.S. without temporary housing (through a hotel or through a friend/family member) if you plan onlooking for an off-campus apartment.
    • Arrive with a plan to meet someone whom you do not have their contact information (phone #, address, etc.)

    What to Bring to the U.S.

    Legal Documents to have in your Possession

    You may be asked to present all the following at the Port of Entry, so have them easily accessible in your handbag along with your airline tickets:

    • Passport (also keep a copy of your passport in your checked baggage and a keep a copy of it at home as well in case it is lost or stolen)
    • Visa Document (Form I-20 or Form DS-2019) – If the U.S. Embassy returned your visa document in a sealed envelope only to be opened by a U.S. official at a U.S. Port of Entry, please honor this.
    • UMass Lowell Admissions Letter if you are an international student. If you are a Visiting Faculty or Research Scholar, the invitation letter, or Appointment Letter from your UMass Lowell Hiring Department
    • The Original Financial Documentation which you provided to U.S. Embassy or Consulate. If your funding is from UMass Lowell, then you should have a letter from your UMass Lowell Hiring Department outlining the details of your paid position or if a student, the details of your Research Assistantship or Teaching Assistantship.

    How Much Money to Bring

    We recommend that you not carry any more than $300 in cash (the cash should include small bills and some coins). You may want to keep the cash in two separate areas easily accessible to you. Be always aware of your personal belongings during your travel. It is unsafe to carry a lot of cash, so please try not to carry more than $200-$300.

    Clothing and Living Items

    In general, you want to have enough clothing for 10-14 days to minimize having to do laundry.

    If Arriving for Fall or Summer Sessions:

    • 6-10 light shirts or T-shirts
    • 4-6 pairs of pants (either light fabric or at least 2-3 pairs of jeans)
    • 4-6 pairs of shorts (light fabric)
    • 1 light jacket for mild temperature
    • 2-3 light long sleeve sweaters
    • Feel free to bring 1-2 formal outfits (men should bring 1 dress blazer and 1 tie) – You may want to bring a traditional formal outfit from your country for special cultural events.
    • Shoes can be bought in the U.S. at reasonable prices, but it will be helpful to bring a pair of sneakers or comfortable shoes, sandals, etc. as well as one dress pair of shoes.
    • 10-14 pairs of undergarments (also include some pajamas)
    • Bring whatever dishes/cooking utensils you feel you can fit, but it is good to bring enough for two people to start with
    • Toiletries – Toothbrush, Soap, Hairbrush, Deodorant, Shampoo, etc. The airline may have specific guidelines on these items, so obtain the appropriate information prior to packing. These items can be easily bought upon arrival as well, so you may want to pack travel size toiletries.
    • Medication – You will need to carry a doctor’s note for any prescription medication as you will need to present this at airport(s). Follow the immunization instructional information which was provided to you from the UMass Lowell Health Services Department.
    • Food -It is good to have enough non-perishable foods/snacks to last you a couple of days.
    • Books/Software/Computer/Educational Material, etc. 
    • Electrical Equipment -Outlets in the U.S. operate with a voltage of 110-120 volts, 60 cycles. If your equipment requires 220 volts, bring a converter, and plug adapter. If it operates within 110 and 240 volts, bring a plug adaptor.
    • Bedding – Two Standards Pillowcases; Two-Four Flat sheets (flat sheets will be more flexible upon arrival to temporarily accommodate any size mattress); A light blanket.

    If Arriving for Spring semester:

    You will be arriving in January, the midst of cold season in Massachusetts, please substitute the above-mentioned items accordingly (i.e., warm clothing, pajamas, bedding, appropriate shoes, etc.). You should still carry some short-sleeve shirts to add as under layers, but bring mostly long-sleeve shirts, sweaters, sweatshirts, long pants, and jeans. You will need a winter jacket. Winter clothing will be available at reasonable prices upon your arrival. However, if you are coming from a warm climate be sure to dress appropriately for your arrival and transportation from airport to hotel. This includes appropriate winter shoes that are closed and do not slip-on ice. You will need winter boots but will be able to purchase those upon arrival. Do bring, gloves, a scarf, and a winter hat.

    You should bring a winter blanket as well for your bedding.


    Please keep the following average temperatures in mind when packing clothing for your stay in Lowell.

    Fall Semester:

    • September and October: 8 to 15°C
    • November and December: -17 to 3°C

    Spring Semester:

    • January - March: -17 to 3°C
    • April and May: 3 to 15°C

    Summer Semester:

    • June - August: 15 to 35°C
  • What to Expect at a U.S. Port of Entry

    U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) governs the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). They are charged with facilitating your entry and monitoring your status in the U.S. while you take advantage of our nation’s academic, educational, and cultural offerings. To enhance security without slowing legitimate travel, careful planning and preparation by international students and scholars will ensure minimal processing delay.

    Plan Your Arrival

    You may be refused entry into the United States if you attempt to arrive more than 30 days before the program start date listed on your Form I-20 (for F-1 visitors) or Form DS-2019 (for J-1 visitors).

    Always Hand-Carry Your Documents

    Do not check the following documents in your baggage. If your baggage is lost or delayed, you will be unable to present the documents at your port of entry. As a result, you may not be able to enter the United States.

    1. Your passport, valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected stay.
    2. SEVIS Form I-20 (for F-1 visitors)
    3. SEVIS Form DS-2019 (for J-1 visitors)

    In addition, it is strongly recommended that you also hand carry the following documentation:

    1. Evidence of financial resources.
    2. For new students or Visiting Scholars, your UMass Lowell Invitation Letter or Admissions Letter.
    3. For new students or Visiting Scholars, paper receipt of the SEVIS fee payment.
    4. For continuing student, evidence of student status, such as recent tuition receipts and transcripts.

    For comprehensive information on procedures for traveling and arriving in the United States, visit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s webpage on Crossing U.S. Borders.

    Complete Your Entry Paperwork

    If Arriving by Land or Sea: The Customs Border Patrol (CBP) Officer at the port of entry will provide the necessary Customs Declaration Forms (CF-6059) and Arrival-Departure Record Form (I-94) will be able to be accessed after arrival.

    All visitors entering the United States must state their reason for wishing to enter the country. You will also be asked to provide information about your destination. It is important that you tell the CBP Officer that you will be a student. Be prepared to include the name and address of the school program where you will enroll/participate.

    I-94 Process

    Starting April 30, 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) rolled out a new electronic I-94 process at air and seaports of entry. Under the new CBP process, a CBP officer will provide each admitted nonimmigrant traveler with an admission stamp on their passport. CBP will no longer issue a paper Form I-94 upon entry to U.S., with some exceptions. Learn more on the CBP website.

    Following Admission into the United States

    Students and scholars should report to their school within 30 days of the start date listed on your Form I-20/DS-2019. You are not permitted to enter the U.S. earlier than the 30-days prior to the start date. You are also not allowed to enter any later the arrival dates listed on the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019.

    Secondary Inspection Requirements

    If the CBP officer at the port of entry cannot initially verify your information or you do not have all the required documentation, you may be directed to an interview area known as “secondary inspection.” Secondary inspection allows inspectors to conduct additional research to satisfy any questions they may have.

    The inspector will first attempt to verify your status by using the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). This is an electronic database tracking system. Failure to comply with U.S. government entry-exit procedures may result in the denial of entry to the United States. Under certain circumstances, the CBP officer may issue a “Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor” Form (I-515A), which authorizes temporary admission into the United States. If you are issued a Form I-515 upon arrival, please visit our office immediately as this form will need immediate follow up.

    Be sure to attend the Mandatory Immigration Clearance held by the ISSO upon your arrival. We will review your visa documentation to ensure that you entered in proper status.

    Security Clearance Screening

    Students from certain countries and fields of study are often subjected to a Security Clearance. This is also known as Administrative Processing.

    It is helpful to have certain documents ready when applying for a new visa or visa renewal if you are from a country which may undergo additional screening or if you are in a STEM field. Most STEM fields are listed in the government’s Technology Alert List (TAL).

    The following is meant to help you be prepared in case you are asked to present additional documentation. DO NOT, however, present it unless you are asked to do so. Some people may be asked to present some or all the following:

    • An invitation letter from your UMass Lowell Academic Department outlining the research that you will be involved in. The U.S. Embassy wants to be sure that you will not be integrally engaged in any research that is of a sensitive nature and that you and your Academic Supervisor will follow Export Control guidelines. The letter should include your research experience and background. If you are being funded by UMass Lowell, it is helpful to mention the amount of funding and the source of funding.
    • Resume, when applicable, it should include a list of publications.
    • Research/Study Plan, detailing your planned studies and research while in the U.S. It should include the name and email address of your advising professor and/or the department chair.
    • Official Transcripts, Students who have already been studying in the U.S. and are applying for a visa renewal may be asked to submit their official transcripts.
    • Information on your Academic Advisor, Students who have been issued a Teaching Assistantship and more importantly a Research Assistantship should print their advisor’s biography web page or their CV.
  • Getting to Lowell from Logan Airport

    The ISSO partners with a local transportation company that will be able to transport you from Boston Logan Airport to the Lowell area. This service is free of charge to you. However, this is not an automatic service, and you will need to follow the directions to request your pick-up. Please access the Airport Transportation eligibility requirements and request form on our Pre-Arrival Information page (below). If you choose to use this service, you must know the exact drop off location. If you have a contact person whom you are meeting upon your arrival to the city of Lowell, you should have their email address, phone number and local address. If the driver brings you to the Lowell area and you are not able to get in touch with the person whom you planned on meeting, the driver will either bring you to University Crossing (if it is open) or a nearby hotel. You will then be responsible for relocating your bags from University Crossing or the nearby hotel, to your semester accommodations. Additionally, please note that the ISSO is only open Monday – Friday 8:30 a.m. –5 p.m.

    Please note: that while we are happy to offer this service and absorb the cost, we will not be able to reimburse any student who chooses to be picked up by an alternative company, or other means of transportation.

    Alternative Airport Transportation

    Logan International Airport in Boston is the closest international airport to Lowell. There are several ways by which you may get to Lowell from Boston, Logan International Airport.

    The most convenient way to get from Logan Airport to Lowell is to follow the instructions above and arrange for an airport pick up via our approved vendor.

    Below is a listing of several alternatives to get from but please note that they vary significantly in cost AND you are responsible for any costs associated with transportation you arrange yourself).

    1. Shuttle Services
      • Flight Line (1-603-893-8254) 51A Pelham Rd Salem, NH 03079
      • JT’s Airport Shuttle Service (1-978-934-9200) 27 Royalston Ave Lowell, MA 01851
      • TWC Airport Limo (1-800-223-2325) 33 Nabnasset St Westford, MA 01886
      • Axis Coach Transportation (877) 770-8846 51 Harvey Rd, Londonderry, NH 03053

    2. Taxi
      Taxis are available directly outside of the terminals at virtually all hours/days of the week. You can also attempt to arrange a taxi pick up in advance. A taxi ride from Logan Airport to Lowell could cost over $100.

    3. Public transit
      Note that while it is possible to get to Lowell with public transit, we do not advise this for incoming students. The trip by public transit involves multiple vehicle changes and is difficult with large amounts of luggage. If you do choose to take public transit, we recommend you take a taxi from the airport to North Station in Boston. From North Station take the "Commuter Train" to Lowell. After arriving in Lowell take another taxi to get to your destination. This option should cost approximately $50+

      Note: Make sure that you have enough small bills in US currency ($1, $5, $10, $20) to pay for your transportation or incidental travel needs. Most van services will accept a credit card but for some services or travel needs you may need cash.
  • Short-term Accommodation Information

    The Lowell area has several facilities available to rent on a short-term basis while you look for longer term housing. Below are listed some of the more popular options in the area. These options include short term stay hotels as well as some longer-term residence hotels that include private kitchens.

    Temporary Housing Accommodations (Shorter Term – few days):

    • Sonesta Select Boston
      Lowell 30 Industrial Ave., East Lowell, MA 01852; Phone: 978-458-7575
    • Commonwealth House
      87 Nesmith St. Lowell, MA 01852; Phone: 978-452-9071
    • Holiday Inn Tewksbury-Andover
      4 Highwood Dr. Tewksbury, MA 01876; Phone: 978-640-9000
    • Holiday Inn Express Chelmsford
      8 Independence Dr. Chelmsford, MA 01824; Phone: 877-666-3243
    • Element Chelmsford
      25 Research Pl., North Chelmsford, MA 01863; Phone: 978-256-5151
    • Fairfield Inn by Marriott Boston Tewksbury / Andover
      1695 Andover St. Tewksbury, MA 01876; Phone: 978-640-0700

    Temporary Housing Accommodations for Longer Term (A Few Weeks)

    If you require temporary accommodations for a few weeks or more, you will need kitchen facilities as it gets very expensive to eat out every day. Temporary accommodations with kitchen facilities are available outside of Lowell at the below location.

    • Residence Inn by Marriott Boston Tewksbury/Andover
      1775 Andover St. Tewksbury, MA 01876; Phone: 978-640-1003
  • Questions to Consider

    • What is your annual budget (including monthly rent, heat, hot water, and broker’s fee)?
    • What kind of house type are you looking for (house or apartment)?
    • How close do you want to live to UMass Lowell (UML), and which campus?
    • Do you want to live alone or have roommates, what kind of roommate do you want?
    • Are you bringing family/children that need to attend public school? If so, we can provide you with additional information.
    • Are you looking for a furnished or unfurnished apartment?

    Other Considerations

    • What is the lease commitment? (For your first rental, upon arrival, it is advisable not to sign a one-year lease until you are more familiar with the renting process, location, etc.)
    • How safe is the neighborhood?
    • Are heating and hot water included with your monthly rent?
    • Is there a basement laundry, or is it near to any public laundry?
    • Will the apartment be noisy? (Is it near an elevator or entry? Are the walls thin? Do your neighbors party a lot?)
    • Is the apartment, especially the kitchen and bathroom, in good and clean condition?
    • Are you allowed to keep your bicycle in your apartment or in the basement?
    • Are there any security features (particularly for ground floor apartments)?
    • What is the overall size of living space?
    • If you have roommates, how will the utility bills be shared?
    • Is there sufficient natural sunlight and/or overhead light fixtures?
    • Is the apartment close to public transportation?
    • Is there a grocery store or shopping nearby?
    • Is there any parking space if you intend to own a car in the near future?
    • How long will it take you to get to class from your apartment?
    • Will you be able to sublet the apartment if you intend on travelling in the summer?
    • Are pets allowed in the apartment?

    Lowell and the surrounding areas typically have an array of apartments available for rent in line with the UML calendar. It is wise to begin searching for an apartment three months to one month before your anticipated arrival. Because leases usually only require one-month's notice prior to moving, the process of apartment changeover can sometimes occur very quickly. You can begin the process of looking for a new apartment by visiting UML's Off-Campus Living website for information and resources about renting in the Lowell area. UML also has an official website for browsing available rental listings: UMass Lowell Off-Campus Housing Website.

    Students may also consider real estate listing websites such as Zillow, Padmapper, and Local real estate agencies and property management companies, such as Princeton Properties are a good place to search as well. Another resource is Facebook Marketplace and Facebook groups for UML off-campus housing such as: UMass Lowell Off-Campus Housing Public Facebook group. Always be weary of spam and scams when browsing classified ads such as those on Facebook.

    Please be advised that the Greater Boston Area has high housing costs. According to a report conducted by The Boston Foundation: Greater Boston Housing Report Card 2022 (pdf), the rental housing cost estimate for Lowell hovered around the $2000 range in July 2022. Thus, pairing with roommates to share rental costs is wise.

    Applying to Rent an Apartment

    To apply to rent an apartment, you will need:

    • Proof of enrollment
    • Bank statement, loan statement, or evidence of how you will pay your rent.
    • First and last month of rent

    You may also need:

    • Security deposit, which can be up to one month’s rent.
    • Broker fee, which can be up to one month’s rent.
  • Rising 360°

    Rising 360° is a program put on by the Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) to provide individualized guidance for students during their academic and personal journeys at UMass Lowell (UML). This program offers a first point of contact for many UML resources to help students succeed both inside and outside of the classroom. Rising360° serves a wide variety of UML students, yet also gears specific support towards international students.

    Pair-Up Program

    The Pair-Up Program is another excellent resource from our partners at the OMA. This full-year program pairs two to three international students with a domestic American student who can offer support and guidance to their transition to life at a new university and in a new country. International students who participate in the Pair-Up Program are matched with their domestic counterpart in early August so that they can get to know each other before the semester begins. It is a great way to acclimate to U.S. culture.

    The Office of Multicultural Affairs (OMA) Student Ambassadors

    OMA Student Ambassadors are UML international students who have been at the University for one or more semesters and represent a diverse group of our student population. These students have volunteered to help provide advice on how to adjust to living in Lowell, taking classes at the University, and assisting with other new student questions.

    International Student Clubs and Organizations

    UMass Lowell has a very active international student population. Several clubs and organizations have been created, which offer a space for students to meet and engage, teach, and learn about the cultures of their national and/or ethnic backgrounds. These groups are a great way to reach out to current students at the University and may be able to provide assistance upon arrival. Some of the international student groups active on campus include:

    • Armenian Student Association (ASA)
    • Korean Student Association (KSA)
    • Mongolian Student Organization (MSO)
    • Pakistani Student Association (PSA)
    • Undergraduate Vietnamese Cultural Club
    • Cambodian American Student Association (CASA)
    • Indian Student Association (ISA)
    • Chinese Students & Scholars Association (CSSA)
    • Vietnamese Student Association (VSA)
    • Iranian Student Association (UMLIA)
    • Korean Graduate Student Association (KGSA)
    • Latin American Student Association (LASA)
    • Muslim Student Association (MSA)
    • Saudi Students Association (SSA)
    • South Asian Students Association (SASA)
    • Turkish Cultural Club (TCC)