Some important lists

We have tried to list some of the important items on the lists below. As far as the list of things to bring goes, almost all the items mentioned below are readily available in Ithaca - i.e. this is not a list of 'must haves'. However, the lists are prepared with a view of minimizing your initial expenditure upon arriving in the US, and to provide a checklist to help students who might be leaving home for the first time. Note that these are simply indicators, refer to the official State dept. website for updated information.

Things to do after getting offer letters

  • Apply for "complete" transcripts from the Univ. that you last attended.

  • Look at the I-20 carefully and verify that all the details therein are correct. If there is any error in the form, notify the department and the ISSO office immediately. You will be issued a new I-20

  • You must present following materials to the Consular office at the time you apply for visa.

    • Form I-20 (obtained directly from Cornell)

    • Visa application form (available at the consulate)

    • Two passport size photographs (posses around 10; won't do any harm)

    • Valid Passport

    • Evidence of financial support

    • Visa fee (find out rate from consulate)

You may apply for the visa within 90 days prior to the reporting date mentioned on the I-20.

Send your acceptance letter to the university by fax as well as by airmail

Things to be taken with you when you go for the visa

As soon as you get the date for the visa, get cracking on the file that you need to take for the interview. Your file should include

  • Signed I-20 form.

  • Filled visa app form.

  • Two passport size photos(take glue with you, just in case...)

  • Admission letters

  • TOEFL and GRE scores (Original + Xerox copy)

  • Xerox copy of grade cards/ transcripts

  • Bank documents and financial statements.

  • To be on the safer side, carry all your originals, including your birth certificate.

Go along with a friend or a relative who has a vehicle (just in case you have to go and get something).

We recommend that you get up-to-date information from the Visa office in your area, since there are continuous updates. The Visa office provides a very good list of the documents you need to carry.

Make sure that you are familiar with the documents and their locations, their meaning sin the file. Take a good file with tabs labeled so that you can pull out whatever document the officer asks for in as little time as possible. After all, you only have about 5 min. at the window. If you do not have aid, a summary of financial statements is sometimes helpful, a brief idea of all the finances that you need to cover in order to finance your education. Make sure that you have enough liquid assets to cover atleast one year of your stay at Cornell. Liquid assets are those assets that can be easily converted to cash. These include your bank balance, etc. Land and other fixed assets do not classify as liquid assets. The officer needs to be convinced that you or your parents have enough money to cover atleast one year of your stay here. .

Travel booking and tips

The next thing to do is blocking tickets (this implies no financial commitment). This can be done via travel agents. Make sure that the agent/agency is good.

As far as possible, avoid change of airline (which in most cases is not possible). A direct flight is the best. (E.g.: Lufthansa: New Delhi to Frankfurt and from Frankfurt to Detroit). If change of airline can't be avoided, leave at least 4-6 hrs gap between the scheduled arrival of one flight and the scheduled departure of the connecting flight. Baggage is usually safe with a single airline. Change of airlines sometimes leads to misplaced baggage. Some airlines don't take care of baggage transfer you may have to personally carry it (check this while booking). For more information on travel, check the travel section on this website.

Getting the Visa

When you go for the visa,dress decently. Avoid any Americanisms". Speak slowly and clearly looking directly into the eyes of the consular officer -- even if he/she is not looking at you. The most common, and sometimes the only question asked at the Visa office- "Do you know how cold it gets in Cornell?"

Your admit to Cornell is usually proof that you are an above average student. If you do not have aid, they may want to check your financial papers. Make sure they are in order, and that you are familiar with all the papers.

Emigration clearance

Get this after visa. This is usually not required: ECNR (Emigration Clearance Not Required). But the emigration officers at the airport of departure may create some hullabaloo about this.

So don't take any chances. For this you'll need the following:

  • Passport and Visa (of course).

  • ECNR application form (available from the pass port office)

  • Original and Xerox copies of the provisional degree certificate. (If you've the original, then it's well and good).

  • The required fee.

Please verify if this is a requirement at the Visa / passport office.

Getting your $$$

Nowadays this is pretty easy -- from Thomas Cook or American Express. Even a Nationalized bank would do this job for you. For this you'll need to take the following things along:

  • Passport + copy; air-ticket; I-20 [student copy]; grade cards + copies.

  • Provisional Certificate +copy; 12th standard mark/pass sheet + copy.

  • Aid and admission letters + copies.

  • Bank statement (for the source of Indian currency for buying the required dollars).

As mentioned in the travel section, we recommend that you get some currency in lower denominations, in case you need to spend it in your journey.

Things to be done in advance (as much as possible)

  • Learn driving, please don't forget to get your license when you are coming. The IDP is not honored by the New York State, but your Indian license is valid.

  • Learn to cook. Try to get a recipe book, if you are not good at remembering things, especially spices!

  • Apply for bank loan (if necessary)

  • Make your passport valid for 6 months more than your stay indicated in your I-20.(this is not critical but convenient if possible)

  • Make outstation purchases (sweater, thermal underwear, cassettes etc.)

  • Get the medical check-up done: dental; fresh check-up, if you have a major ailment (do not be under the impression that you would get these tests done when you land in the US; believe it or not - you'll go broke doing so, unless otherwise you have a medical insurance, or rather, endurance).

  • Get prescriptions and medicines

  • Get your eyesight checked; get an extra pair of eyeglasses.

  • Take lots of pictures, get a nice album here... you would be glad you took time to compile those beautiful photographs

  • You could get small Indian mementoes for people here- hand-work and embroidery is highly valued here!

And most importantly, eat all the nice Indian food, especially home-made food that you can. Enjoy your last few weeks in the country!


Here is the interesting part, which, incidentally can also be the most troublesome and traumatic if you do not know where to start, or leave things to the last minute!

Start your packing well in advance. Buy two good boxes (suitcases) -- they should be able to withstand a lot of mishandling. They should be as large as possible within the size limitations (however most airlines are not very strict about baggage size). Airlines, however, are pretty strict about weight limitations!

Put identification marks and labels both inside and outside the boxes (apart from these, the airline itself will provide sticker labels and baggage tags). Also write down what your suitcases look like -- just in case the luggage gets lost in transit. Suitcases with independent top and bottom are preferable.

Luggage Specifications

As an example the Air India economy class baggage specifications to the USA are given below. This usually is similar to other airlines as well (contact the respective airline office for details): 2 pieces of baggage with total linear dimension [l + b + h] not exceeding 270 cm [106"].

Moreover the total linear dimension of each baggage should not exceed 158 cm [62"]. The weight of each bag should not exceed 32 kg Cabin baggage: in addition, you can carry a bag with linear dimension not exceeding 115 cm [45"] onboard. ( weighing about 8 kg) Women are allowed an additional handbag or a purse. Remember this is a purse, and does not mean another cabin bag!

Things to be kept in the cabin luggage

  • Some medicines (including those for air-sickness).

  • Sweater/ light jacket.

  • Original important documents (I-20, visa, tickets).

  • Important apping materials (SOP, Reco etc.)

  • Novels/books/mags for in-flight reading.

  • Enough money (little cash and traveller's cheques).

  • Address and phone book (Indian and US).

  • Copies of your photo (passport size).

  • Medical history files/prescriptions

  • 1 pair of leather chappals/ floaters etc

  • Keep some clean clothes, and the most essential basic items required for sustaining yourself for a couple of days, in case your luggage gets misplaced in transit.( bags almost never get lost, but its better to be safe and prepared than sorry)

Keep an inventory of all items that you have in a particular suitcase.


Usually clothes are machine washed once a week (Laundromat). Hence one week supply of clothes (+ one week back up) is needed. Get all clothes a little loose -- clothes may shrink in the drier and you may "gain weight".

  • 14-15 sets of undergarments, socks, handkerchiefs

  • 5-6 sets of good shirts, jeans (bring a lot of T-shirts, which are cheap in India)

  • Some skirts/other dresses, maybe kurtas for guys

  • Good swimming trunk/ swimsuit + few shorts

  • 1-2 formal dresses(for interviews etc.)

  • 1-2sarees,3-4 salwar kameez sets

  • 3-6 ordinary towels (a couple of them may be Turkish)

  • A couple of bed sheets and a throw ( you can buy a blanket or a comforter here)

  • Woollen sweaters ( that can stand you an Indian winter- these should be good for the Fall. You would need to buy winter clothes here in the US)

  • A leather or thick woolen jacket (important)

  • Woolen socks/thermal underwear

  • Umbrella

  • 1 Suncap+ 1 woollen cap that covers your ears

  • Muffler/ Shawl

  • 2-3 neckties for guys, some nice scarves for girls

  • Sunglasses

  • Track pants, exercise gear that you normally use

  • Your Toilet kit consisting of

    • 2-3 toothbrushes

    • Toothpaste

    • Talcum powder

    • Razors/blades

    • Shaving cream and after shave

    • Shampoo and conditioner

    • Perfume

    • Deo

    • A couple of soaps

    • A moisturizer bottle

    • Some sunscreen

    • Bottle of hair oil ( preferably one that does not freeze)

    • Combs

    • Nailcutter

    • Other make-up items required by women ( lipsticks, eye-shadow, mascara, eyeliner, foundation, lip gloss,etc.)

Do not take Indian files/folders or punching machines (filing system in the US is different :3 holes; A4) buy a good leather wallet

Wear your shoes to save space in the box. If needed buy only leather shoes (other type of shoes are cheap in the US)

Don't worry if you can't bring any of the stuff listed above -- most of them are available pretty cheap in the US (Made in China, and cotton stuff, Made in India).

Food Stuff:

Below are some north/south Indian food stuff that may be taken: (Change quantities according to your eating habits and preferences)

  • Masalas etc. (usually OK with US customs, if sealed in original packing with label)

  • Tea/Coffee powder -- 0.2 kg (it may take some time to get used to the US stuff)

  • Dhania-jeera powder -- 0.25 kg

  • Red chilli powder -- 0.25 kg

  • Turmeric powder -- 0.25 kg

  • Small quantities of each of the following: cloves, cinnamon, elaichi (cardamom - white and black], mustard seeds, asafoetida powder ( do not get Jeera, this resembles some drug that is being smuggled and the officials would ask you at the airport

  • Pickles

  • Papad [appalam]

  • Different dals in small quantities for initial phase

  • Sambar powder - 0.5 kg

  • Rasam powder -- 0.5 kg

  • Tamarind paste/Ginger garlic paste

Note: Most of these items are available in Ithaca itself (although you might not want to convert their price to rupees). The above may all seem very silly and worth mocking. But these will help you beat the "craving" during the initial few weeks. But, be realistic: if you think the list is exhaustive, prune it and take the most important things only.

The U.S. immigration and agriculture department strictly prohibits carrying food, meat, vegetables, fruits, seeds, etc. into the United States. Your baggage might be subject to a security check and inspection by sniffer-dogs at airport.

Some practical suggestions- carry lots of masalas, cut down on the rice and the wheat/etc. You could also get the readymade masala packets.


  • A pressure pan (with spare handle, 3 safety valves, 2 weights, 1 base plates, 3 gaskets Note: big pressure cooker is not needed as you can buy a rice cooker in the US)

  • SS/ microwave safe dinner plates -- 2

  • SS microwave safe bowls - 2

  • Table spoons - 2

  • Teaspoons - 2

  • Fork -- 2

  • Dinner knives -- 2

  • Kitchen knife -- 1

  • Cooking tongs for SS vessels --1

  • Tea strainer --1

  • Ladles for serving rice --1

  • Ladles for serving dal -- 1

  • Tumblers -- 2

List of medicines recommended by a doctor

(These are suggestions to be modified according to individual needs and preferences) 
Note: all the medicines should be accompanied by a valid prescription from a certified doc.

  • Fever Reducers( like Crocin- about 30)

  • Pain relievers( like Brufen, Dispirin)

  • Anti- allergy, cough and cold medicines ( Actifed, Allegra,etc)

  • Band-aids ( in addition get cotton bandages)

  • Ointments for burns and cuts ( like Burnol, Soframycin)

  • Medicine for Diarrhoea, stomach ache ( like lomotil, Pudin hara)

  • Medicines for airsickness ( like Avomine)

  • Pain relieving sprays and ointments ( Zandu Balm,etc)

  • Moisturizing cream

Make sure you carry your lens solution and lens boxes, aslong with spare lenses, if you wear them with you!

Things to be kept on person

  • Shorter extract of contact address -- especially of people coming to pick you up.

  • Receipt got along with traveler's cheques in case you lose TCs.

  • Remaining amount of cash.(a belt-bag would be a perfect place to keep it)

Things to be kept at home

  • List of addresses /phone nos. at which info about you can be obtained.

  • One copy of all your important documents.

  • A copy of all relevant parts of medical history files.

  • A few signed blank papers so that your parents can be authorized to look after anything on your behalf.

  • Your tailoring measurements.

Things to be done in the last week before the flight:

  • Call up and find if there's any change of schedule of the flight (inform the people coming to pick you up of any such change)

  • Packing

  • Photos

On the day of flight + in-flight + later

  • Be at the airport 3-4 hrs before flight departure

  • Relax during flight; sleep as much as possible

  • For vegetarians: watch out before you eat - you may get NV even if you had asked for veggie. Veg. Food is generally bland -- fruits/juices would be good choice. (before ordering anything onboard, check if you have to pay for it separately)

  • Don't hesitate to ask questions. If required don't hesitate to spend money.

NOTE: as far as possible ask an official only: airhostesses, airport authority, cops etc.

Port of entry procedures

  • Sometime before landing the flight attendant will distribute customs declaration forms and immigration forms (I-94) as mentioned below. Fill these out on the plane (you'll submit them to the appropriate authorities when you land).

  • Do not hesitate to take flight attendant's help

  • You can indicate that you have nothing to declare and total value of all your things is less than $100 on the form Form I-94 -- fill in the plane. After seeing your documents the immigration officer will indicate length of stay, Univ., etc. This'll be attached to your passport.

  • Form I-20 [student copy] -- all transactions regarding your non-immigrant status will be recorded in this form. This should be retained at all times (not to be surrendered when you temporarily leave the US).

  • Just before you land the correct local time will be announced -- set your watch (dual time watch will come handy here)

  • Once you are out of the plane go straight to the immigration counter. Keep your I-20, passport, aid and admission letters ready. They might ask a few questions like: Is this your first time in the US? Student? F-1 visa? Which Univ.? they will attach an I-94 [arrival/departure record card]

  • Then go the baggage claim to fetch your luggage (Eye-catching labels help here). Pick up a cart (you may have to use $1 here) to carry bags.

  • Cart your baggage to the nearby customs. If asked tell them you are a student, F-1 visa etc. If asked to open the baggage do so slowly -- don't mess up the place. (Note: in most cases you won't be asked to open the baggage at all and will simply be waved through).

  • Now go and wait at the nearest exit for the guys who would come to pick you up. If they do not show up (within 0.5-1 hr), make a collect call to

    • CIA office bearers,

    • Your professor/advisor, or

    • International Students' Office. Tell them your exact location (e.g.: the terminal number in the airport). Try to get help from an airport official - make arrangement for a Public Announcement. People in the US are usually very helpful.


Make sure you have our contact details, in case you need any immediate help!

Have fun packing your entire life in two-three bags! It is an experience we hope you will enjoy. Having friends do some things for you can be fun, especially with the shopping.

Upcoming Events 
There are no upcoming events at this time.