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Graduate Students

Dear International Graduate Student,

Congratulations on your acceptance to Lehigh University! We are proud to have you as part of our growing international community of more than 500 internationals from more than 60 nations. You will occupy a special place here at Lehigh, not only in the academic field you have chosen, but also as an ambassador of goodwill from your home country. The University has stated that its first goal is to develop future leaders in our global society. You can help us attain that goal.

We have created a checklist to help you prepare for your arrival to the United States and Lehigh.

You may also view these helpful videos:

VIDEO: Before You Come To Lehigh
VIDEO: Once You Are At Lehigh
VIDEO: Graduate Student Housing
VIDEO: Health and Wellness

Things You Need to do Before Arriving to the United States

1. Pay SEVIS Fee

Beginning October 27, 2008, Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires all individuals receiving a SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) Form I-20 to pay a $200 SEVIS fee ($180 for individuals receiving a Form DS-2019) before they may apply for the U.S. entry visa. For further information please check with the U.S. Embassy or Consulate in your home country on the payment procedures.

2. Apply for a Visa

Your United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) immigration document is enclosed. Please read and sign the SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019 immigration document, then schedule an appointment with the US Embassy or Consulate. Please take the following documents with you to your appointment:

  • SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019
  • Application forms required by the U.S. Embassy/Consulate (DS-156, DS-157 and DS-158, whichever apply to your situation)
  • Lehigh acceptance / admission letter
  • Original financial support documents
  • Proof that you will be returning to your home country after your stay in the U.S.
  • Please note that the SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019 is not a financial guarantee from Lehigh University. It is used for immigration purposes. Please refer to Helpful Hints to Obtaining a U.S. Entry Visa which gives you additional information on how to request the visa.

SPECIAL NOTE: When applying for your student visa, please keep in mind the following:

1) You cannot apply for a student visa at a U.S. Embassy or Consulate more than 120 days before the start date of your program at Lehigh.  If you apply for your visa more than 120 days prior to your start date as provided on your I-20, the Embassy or Consulate will hold your application until it is able to issue the visa. 

2) The Department of Homeland Security regulation requires that all initial or beginning students enter the U.S. 30 days or less in advance of the course of study start date as shown on the I-20.  Please consider this date carefully when making travel plans to the U.S.

3. Register for International Orientation

Join us at the International Orientation. The Office of International Students & Scholars (ISS) conducts an intensive orientation program for newly arrived international students and scholars. The program includes presentations, question-and-answer sessions, and the opportunity to meet friendly Lehigh staff and students who can assist you in many ways.

4. Planning for Your Arrival  - Airport Pick Up (FIRST YEAR STUDENTS ONLY)


Email intnl@lehigh.edu if you need alternative ways (public bus, taxi, etc.) to arrive on Lehigh's campus

The Office of International Affairs is offering pickup services from Newark International, JFK International and Philadelphia International airports for $30/person between August 13 and August 23. Please fill out this form and return it to our office no later than August 1, 2012

5. Housing: On-Campus

Watch This VIDEO: Graduate Student Housing

On-Campus housing at Lehigh is limited for graduate students. However, there are two on-campus housing options for Lehigh graduate students as listed in the Graduate Student Housing Brochure

  • The Saucon Village Apartment Complex is located in Saucon Valley, approximately three miles from Lehigh's Asa Packer Campus and adjacent to the Murray H. Goodman Sports Campus. This option is available for single and for married graduate students. Free bus transportation to and from Saucon Village is available Monday through Friday and limited service on the weekend. Monthly rental rates, valid until August 2012:

                $515 per month for an efficiency

                $610 for a one-bedroom

                $645 for a small two-bedroom

                $660 for a two-bedroom without an air conditioner (AC)

                $675 for a two-bedroom with an AC

                $685 for a three-bedroom apartment

  • The Packer House, located at 217 W. Packer Avenue on Lehigh University’s Asa Packer Campus. The residence houses 13 single graduate students and also serves as the home of the Office of Graduate Student Life and the Graduate Student Center.  Monthly rental rates, valid until August 2012:

                $470 for a small bedroom

                $495 for a large bedroom

If you are interested in reserving an apartment, contact Office of Residential Services, by phone: (610) 758-3500 or by e-mail: inrsd@lehigh.edu. You can also fill out an graduate housing application. For general information on graduate housing, please visit the graduate housing page or the residential services page.

6. Housing: Off-Campus

Watch This VIDEO: Graduate Student Housing

For many graduate students, the most convenient (and affordable) housing is found close to Lehigh in the South Bethlehem community. Most apartments are unfurnished, but furnishings can be purchased locally.

    Lehigh resources to begin your apartment search:

    Non-Lehigh resources for your apartment search:

    Resources for Off-Campus Living:

Additional Note: When renting off-campus, be prepared to have additional money with you to pay for security deposits (usually one month's rent), utilities, and to purchase items for your apartment.

   Temporary Housing

The best way to find the right apartment is to search in person. Below are some temporary housing options you may utilize while you search for the perfect apartment in Bethlehem.

  • Lehigh Temporary Housing: Only offered August 5, 2012 to August 14, 2012
    • South Mountain College, 233 E. Packer Avenue, Bethlehem, PA 18015
    • Tel: 610-758-4722 or email (ingrador@lehigh.edu)
    • Rates: $28.65 per person/night - double; $32.70 per person/night - single

7. Health Records and TB Testing

The Lehigh Health Center requires all new international students to submit the following forms prior to your arrival:

Tuberculosis (TB) testing is required for ALL new students. ISS will arrange for you to complete the testing during the International Graduate Orientation Week.  The fee for the test is $70.05.     

8. Apply for an International Driver's License

In Pennsylvania, international students and scholars may drive for up to one(1) year with BOTH AN INTERNATIONAL AND HOME COUNTRY DRIVER’S LICENSE. Contact your home country’s transportation department to apply for an international license. For more information on applying for a Pennsylvania driver's license, click here.

9. Prepare for the weather at Lehigh

Summers are often warm and humid, with average temperatures ranging from 65°F (18°C) to 98°F (37ºC) June to August. Spring (April through June) and fall (September through November) are lovely times. These seasons are marked by pleasant days and cool evenings. The winter months are often a new experience for many. While the area is insulated from the harshest of northeastern winters, temperatures in Bethlehem can fall to 10°F (- 12°C). Snowfall is common.

Normally during summer, men wear lightweight shirts and pants or shorts, while women wear light pants, shorts or skirts, with blouses. In fall, people wear light sweaters, jackets and hats. During winter, you will need a warm coat, scarf, boots, hat, and gloves. For those people arriving in the summer or even early fall, you can buy these winter items when you arrive.

Arriving in the United States

1. Arriving at a United States Airport

When you enter the United States, present the SEVIS I-20 or DS-2019 form, with your passport, to the Immigration Officer.

  • For F-1 SEVIS I-20 form holders: The SEVIS I-20 should be stamped and returned to you.
  • For J-1 DS-2019 form holders: Page 1 of the form will be stamped and returned to you.
  • NOTE: Please click on Info Fact Sheet for Students (F-1) or Info Fact Sheet for Exchange Visitors (J-1) issued by the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement which is useful in what to expect upon your arrival at a U.S. port of entry.

Helpful Advice while in the Airport:

  1. Patron Assistance Booths are usually available in most arrival areas of the airport terminal. Seek them out if you have questions.
  2. Have some American money available after entering the country. U.S. coins will be useful for tipping (usually 10% – 15% of the total bill), telephone calls and miscellaneous expenses. If necessary, change only a small amount at the airport bank, as the exchange rate is not as good as it is in the city.
  3. Keep all money, jewelry, passports and other valuables with you at all times. The best idea is to keep your passport, important documents and your money under your clothing. There have been thefts at the airports, so be very careful.
  4. Travelers’ checks are the best means of carrying large sums of money.

2. Coming to Lehigh University


Newark Airport (New Jersey) to Bethlehem (Westbound)

We urge you to use Newark International Airport as your port of entry. Newark Airport is closer to Bethlehem than John F. Kennedy Airport in New York City. Upon arrival, Transbridge Bus service takes you to the South Bethlehem Terminal at Adams and Mechanic Street, which is two blocks from Lehigh University. The departure times from Newark Airport vary from 9:00AM until 12:00 midnight on weekdays. Times also vary on Saturday and Sunday. It takes approximately 1 hour and 45 minutes from the airport to Bethlehem. A one-way adult ticket costs $21.25 from the ticket agent or $25.00 from the bus driver (only sold when ticket agent is closed). We suggest that you check for the exact times of departure at the Transbridge website.

John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport (New York City) to Bethlehem (Westbound)

If you plan to arrive at John F. Kennedy (JFK) Airport, you can take a direct Transbridge bus to Bethlehem, a three- hour trip. A one-way adult ticket costs $38.95 from the ticket agent or $45.00 from the bus driver (only sold when ticket agent is closed). Be sure to get the bus to South Bethlehem Terminal at Adams and Mechanic Street that lets you off just a few minutes from the Lehigh campus. Please check the website for the exact times of departure from the airport.

Philadelphia International Airport (not recommended)

There are no direct buses from the Philadelphia Airport to Bethlehem. Therefore, we recommend that you do NOT travel to this airport if possible. However, there are buses traveling from Center City Philadelphia to Bethlehem. Please check the website for the exact times of departure from the bus stop. A one-way adult ticket costs about $13.


You will disembark and go through Customs at an International Airport such as Los Angeles, Chicago or Detroit. From there you can get a direct flight to Lehigh Valley International airport (ABE).

Travel from Lehigh Valley International - ABE Airport to Lehigh University

There are no direct buses from Lehigh Valley Airport into Bethlehem. You should take a taxi, which costs approximately $16 - $20 for this ten-minute trip into Bethlehem.

After Arriving at Lehigh

  1. Report to the Office of International Students and Scholars (ISS)
    The Office is open Monday through Friday, 9:00 am to 4:00 pm. We are located in Coxe Hall, 32 Sayre Drive. Bring your passport and all immigration documents with you.
  2. Attend Orientation Programs
    Join us at the International Orientation. All students should attend both the regular orientation and the special international student orientation.
  3. Registration
    1. Select your courses from the current class schedule.
    2. Visit your faculty adviser to get your course selection approved and register on-line.
    3. If selection of courses is done on paper, then please submit your course selection to the Registrar.
    4. Pay Bursar's bill

      Registration of Classes: Monday, August 27, 2012 - Friday, September 07, 2012
    Late Registration
    Students unable to register during the regular registration period have ten additional days to complete the process but a $100.00 late fee will be required. The disadvantage of late registration is the availability of choice of classes as well as missed assignments.

    Tuition, Health Insurance and Technology Fees:
    All students are required to pay their tuition bill for each semester during the registration period. Failure to pay all required fees may result in cancellation of enrollment at Lehigh University.

    Registrar's Office
    Alumni Memorial Building
    Tel: 610-758-3200

    Bursar's Office
    Alumni Memorial Building
    Tel: 610-758-3160
  4. Identification Card (Must be registered for classes first)
    Lehigh University issues full-time students an identification (ID) card. It is a small card with a personal photograph, a student number, and other important information on it. A Lehigh student ID card is required to borrow materials from the libraries, to use the University meal plan, to charge items at the Bookstore, to participate in the South Mountain GOLD Plus program, and to be admitted to athletic facilities and events. You must register for classes before you can get an ID card.

    Student ID Office
    Ulrich Student Center – 1st Floor
    Tel: 610-758-5843
  5. Email Account and LAN Account
    When you receive your picture ID, you will be given instructions on how to get a network ID and email password. You will be able to open your network ID and receive your password twenty-four hours after your ID card has been activated. If you need assistance, please call the Library and Technology Services (LTS) Help Desk at 610-758-4357.
  6. Social Security Number

    You must wait 10 days after your US arrival to apply for an SSN

    If you plan to work in the U.S. during your stay, you will need to apply for a Social Security number. ISS will set up a time with the Social Security Administration to be present on campus at a later date to assist you in your application. To apply for a SSN, you must have an employment offer in the US (assistantship, work-study, or other on-campus employment). Bring your passport with the I-94 card, immigration documents and your employment offer letter with you. You must have a Social Security number in order for Lehigh to be able to pay you, and for you to file U.S. taxes.

    To apply for a Social Security Number, you will need a letter from ISS, an employment offer letter, your documents and an application form. If you miss the SSN orientation, you may apply in person to the following address.

    Social Security Administration
    555 Main Street, Bethlehem, PA 18015 (Office is located in the "Woolworth Building" 1/2 block down (south) from Intersection of Main & Broad Streets)
    Monday-Friday: 9:00am - 4:00 pm
    Tel: 1-800-772-1213
  7. Open a Checking Account
    There are several banks near campus. Wells Fargo has a branch office on campus at the University Center (second floor), 610-758-2265 and at 4th Street and Broadway, Bethlehem, PA 18015, 610-861-1010. For further information, please look at their website: https://www.wellsfargo.com/ To open a checking account at the university branch, you need a Lehigh ID card and a valid passport or a Social Security number.
  8. Health Insurance
    Lehigh has a mandatory insurance policy for all international students. University Health Plans administers Lehigh University ’s student health plan. Lehigh insurance can ONLY be purchased at the beginning of the fall and spring semesters. The Lehigh insurance cannot be purchased for the summer sessions only. Student insurance may be purchased on-line at www.universityhealthplans.com before the tenth day of class. After you register online, you must go to the Bursar’s Office, Alumni Memorial Building, to pay the fee. If possible, this should be done the same day you purchase the insurance. If payment for purchased health insurance is not made by the tenth day of class, you risk your registration being put on hold and dropped from the insurance.

    State Department regulations require all J-1 visa holders and their dependents to be covered by health and accident insurance while in the U.S. (J-1 holders see attached information). Graduate student plan for 2012- 2013 is $2,116. Please note that Lehigh Insurance Plan does not cover spouses or dependants. Other insurance must be purchased for spouse and children.

    Having coverage is essential, as the minimum cost of a pregnancy and delivery is approximately $8,000 - $12,000. Most maternity coverage will pay only 80% of these costs. Also, any preexisting condition (any condition having its origin before the purchase of the insurance) will not be covered. If you are pregnant when you enter the U.S. and before you have purchased coverage, you will be responsible for paying all the bills associated with the pregnancy.

    Note: If you do not have a Social Security number when you are applying for health insurance, please use this number: 999-99-9999.
  9. Immunization and Tuberculosis Testing
    Lehigh requires immunizations. All international students must show proof of a recent tuberculosis skin test (within ten days of test taken) or have the test performed free of charge at the Health Center. In addition, students should be immunized against diphtheria, tetanus, measles, mumps, and rubella. Vaccines are available at the Health Center. There is a fee charged for this service.

    Health Center
    36 University Drive Johnson Hall, Bethlehem, PA 18015
    Telephone: 610-758-3870
    VIDEO: Health and Wellness
  10. Pennsylvania Driver's License (more info here)
    In Pennsylvania, international students and scholars may drive for up to one year with BOTH AN INTERNATIONAL AND HOME COUNTRY DRIVER'S LICENSE. Once the year has past, you will be required to get a Pennsylvania driver's license. In order to request a PA driver's license, an individual's immigration documents must be valid for more than one year into the future at the time of the application.
  11. Owning a Car
    If you plan to own an automobile in Pennsylvania , the state law requires that you purchase liability car insurance. Proof of recent automobile insurance coverage from your own country will be extremely helpful in obtaining automobile coverage here.

Office of International Students and Scholars • Lehigh University • 32 Sayre Drive, Coxe Hall, Bethlehem, PA 18015 • 610-758-4859 • Fax: 610-758-5156 • intnl@lehigh.edu
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