Information for New International Students
Congratulations on your acceptance to the University of Hawaiʻ at Hilo (UH Hilo)! We look forward to seeing all of you on campus this coming semester. This webpage is designed to help you achieve the necessary tasks required to come to UH Hilo as an international student. Follow the steps below to do this.
Online Pre-Departure Orientation for New Students!
Check out the online orientation for new international students! All new international students should view the online orientation before coming to Hilo.
Where You Are Now
At this point in your journey of coming to UH Hilo you should have received the following from the UH Hilo Admissions Office:
- Letter of acceptance from the UH Hilo Admissions Office
- Admissions packet including information on such topics as housing and orientation (if you have not received a packet yet, all of the information in the packet can be found here)
- Form I-20 ("Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant (F-1) Student Status - For Academic and Language Students" ) (for students coming to UH Hilo on F-1 student visas only)
If you have not received one of the items above, please contact the Admissions Office.
What To Do Next
Follow the steps below:
- Submit your Intent to Enroll form
- Create your MyUH Student Account
- Submit your Mandatory Health Requirements form
- Arrange your Travel to Hilo
- Submit the Airport Arrival form online
- Sign up for Orientation
- Find a Place to Live
- Apply for Financial Aid & Scholarships
- Learn about Degree Requirements and Academic Advising at UH Hilo
- Learn about English Placement Assessment Tests
- Take the online Math and Chemistry Placement Tests (if you need to)
- Register for Classes
- Find out how much your Tuition and Fees are and when you have to pay for it
- Obtain a Student Visa (F-1 and J-1 visa students only)
- Obtain Health Insurance (F-1 and J-1 visa students only)
- “Like” our Facebook page and follow us on Instagram & Twitter
- Learn about Campus Safety
- Learn about Student Clubs and Organizations
- Pack and Get Ready to Come to Hilo
- Cell Phones
- Enter the United States
- Attend the Required Meeting for New International Students
Submit your Intent to Enroll form to the UH Hilo Admissions Office. This is important because it will enable you to create your MyUH student account and register for classes. (Note: International exchange students do not need to submit this form.)
Your MyUH student account enables you to register for classes, check your UH email, view your grades, view your tuition and fees charges, and much more. Click here to create your MyUH account and then click on "Get a UH Username." Please remember your username and password.
Submit the Mandatory Health Requirements Form. All students must meet health requirements before attending classes, including:
- Tuberculosis (TB) clearance. You must take a TB test at the University’s Student Medical Services when you arrive in Hilo. You must get the TB test in the United States. Even if you have had a TB test in your home country, you will be required to take a TB test when you arrive. If you test positive on the TB test you will be required to take a chest x-ray, which can cost $75 or more.
- Two doses of measles or MMR vaccination. You will need to get these vaccinations in Hilo if the Mandatory Health Requirements Form that you submit indicates that you have not already had them. View more MMR information in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean.
Plan on arriving in Hilo on Monday, August 17, 2015. Fly in to the Hilo airport (ITO), not the Kona (KOA) airport (which is 2 hours away). New international students can move in to the residence halls on campus on Monday, August 17.
IMPORTANT: New international students may move in to the residence halls on campus on Monday, August 17. If you received an email from the UH Hilo Housing Office indicating that you cannot move in until Tuesday, August 18, that is not correct. Please plan on arriving in Hilo on Monday, August 17. You will be able to move in to your residence hall on August 17.
Yes, we will be at the Hilo airport to pick you up on Monday, August 17, 2015 if you submit the online airport shuttle form.Can I take a taxi or bus to UH Hilo or hotels in Hilo?
UH Hilo is located about 10 minutes from the Hilo Airport. Taxi fare to UH Hilo residence halls is about $25–$30, excluding baggage charges and the customary tip of 10-15%, and are available at the Hilo airport. There is no public bus that serves the airport.
When does orientation for international students begin?
All international students are required to attend a special orientation session for new international students on Tuesday, August 18, 2015. Breakfast and lunch will be provided. Bring your passport (and, if you are a student on an F-1 visa, also bring your I-20 Form and proof of health insurance). At the special orientation meeting, you will learn about important information, such as registration for classes, placement tests, adjusting to life at UH Hilo and on the Big Island, cultural differences, and much more. You will begin to make life-long friends! You will also get your UH ID card, TB test, and a tour of campus. There will also be opportunities to go shopping. There is no fee required to participate in this special orientation meeting for international students.
When does the campus-wide orientation begin?
The campus-wide orientation begins on August 19, 2015. During orientation, you will participate in a series of events and activities before classes begin designed to welcome and orient you to UH Hilo. You will also be able to meet with an academic advisor to discuss your classes and make changes to your class schedule if necessary. There is a $75 fee to participate in the campus-wide orientation. We strongly recommend that you participate! Sign up online here.
Yes, if there is space available. To try to live on campus, you must submit a Housing application form and pay the $10 non-refundable fee. You will need your MyUH username and password to apply for housing online, as well as a credit/debit card to pay the required $10 housing application fee. If you do not have a credit or debit card, you can use the paper housing application form. Currently, on-campus housing is in great demand and not all students who request housing are able to obtain on-campus housing.
How much does it cost to live on campus?
The cost varies from $1,687 to $3,675 per semester. In addition, you must purchase a meal plan if you live on campus in any residence hall except for Hale ‘Ikena (which has a kitchen). The meal plans cost varies from $2,175 to $2,520 per semester. Click here for more information.What are the advantages of living on campus?
Many students who live on campus like the convenience of being close to classrooms, the library, the dining hall, computer labs, and recreational facilities. Living in the residence halls also makes it easy for students to socialize with other students and get to know students from around the world.
What are the residence halls (dormitories) on campus like?
Our residence halls include both shared rooms and apartment settings. Children and spouses cannot be accommodated. More detailed information including room layouts and a list of things to bring are available on the Housing website.
Is there internet in the residence halls on campus?
Yes, wireless internet is available for free in the residence halls on campus. There are also computer labs on campus where you can use computers and print (printing incurs a small fee per page).
Can I live off-campus?
Students can make their own arrangements to live off-campus. Some international students live in surrounding residential neighborhoods, where there are apartments offering shared housing arrangements within easy walking or bicycling distance. You will probably need to sign a housing contract or lease in such private housing. Click here to find more information on off-campus housing options.Here are some housing options that are friendly to international students:
- Tohbi Hale and Hale Haumana Apartments (5 minute walk to campus)
- ASH (Adult Student Housing) (5 minute walk to campus)
- Tel: 808-959-9518
- Waiakea Lagoon View Apartments (25 minute walk to campus)
How do students get around?
Click here for an interactive map of Hilo. There is an affordable bus system serving the Big Island, including the communities surrounding the UH Hilo campus. Some international students have bicycles or mopeds, and some purchase cars. Please note that parking cars on or near campus is often difficult and it can be quite expensive to own and maintain a car. Hawai’i State law requires automobile insurance for all drivers. Also, you will need a current International Driver’s License or get a Hawai’i State driver’s license to be able to own a car in Hawai’i.apply for U.S. federal financial aid. You should also apply for scholarships from your home government (since a Pell Grant and other forms of U.S. federal financial aid will not be enough to pay for your tuition, fees, and other expenses).
For all other international students, click here for more information on scholarships for international students.
An excellent resource is the Advising Center website. Check it out!What is an academic advisor?
An academic advisor is usually a faculty member in your major/field of study. An academic advisor will assist you with selecting classes and help you make sure you are completing required courses for your program. He/she can also answer questions about careers in your field of study and graduate/professional school, and refer you to other resources on campus as necessary. If you are undecided about your major, or wish to change your major, the staff in the Advising Center will assist you. If you have been admitted into the English Language Institute, the Director of the English Language Institute will be your academic advisor until you complete your required English courses.
Who is my academic advisor?
You will have opportunities to meet with an academic advisor during Orientation. You should speak with an academic advisor during Orientation to make sure you are registering for appropriate classes. You will be assigned to a specific academic advisor about four weeks after the start of your first semester. You can then meet with your assigned academic advisor throughout the remainder of your time at UH Hilo.
You may be required to take one or more English placement assessment tests depending on your major, your previous academic history, and other factors. There are two different English placement assessment tests: the English Language Placement Assessment and the Writing Placement Assessment. The purpose of these tests is to make sure that you register for the appropriate classes.
What is the English Language Placement Assessment test? Do I have to take it?
The English Language Placement Assessment test is a set of tests designed to measure the listening, grammar, and reading skills of people who are not native speakers of English. The Listening test has two parts. Part one is a multiple-choice test in response to audio-taped questions. Part two is an 18-minute lecture followed by a series of questions. The grammar and reading tests are multiple-choice. Most non-native English speakers must take this test. Click here to find out if you do not have to take the test. You do not need to sign up in advance for this test.
What is the Writing Placement Assessment test? Do I have to take it?
The Writing Placement Assessment test is a timed essay exam that determines what writing class you should take. All non-native speakers of English must take the test, except those who took the SAT test or took an English writing class at another university that has transferred to UH Hilo as the equivalent of English 100 (ENG 100). Click here to find out if you must take the Writing Placement Assessment test and for more information. If you are required to take it, you must sign up online in advance.Must I take ESL (English as a Second Language) classes?
Students who enter UH Hilo with a TOEFL score of at least 500 (paper-based TOEFL), 61 (iBT), or 5.5 IELTS are not required to take English as a Second Language (ESL) classes. Non-native English speaking students with English language test scores below these scores or with no test scores are admitted into the English Language Institute (ELI) and are required to take the ESL classes that are prescribed by the ELI.What is the English Language Institute (ELI)?
The English Language Institute provides English as a Second Language instruction for non-native English speakers.
If you plan to major in a science, agriculture, business or psychology, you should take the Math Placement Assessment Test. You should take the test online before you arrive. You should take the Chemistry Placement Assessment Test if you plan to major in a science or agriculture and do not have the required transferrable chemistry classes from another university. You should also take this test online before you arrive. Click here for a list of which majors require which placement assessment tests.
Freshmen: The term freshmen refers to students who will enroll in a university for the first time and who have not attended another university prior to coming to UH Hilo. All new freshmen will be registered for classes for their first semester by the University (except for students admitted into the English Language Institute). You will be able to meet with an academic advisor during orientation in August and make changes in your class schedule.
Transfer and Exchange Students: You may register for Fall 2015 classes on or after April 11, 2015.
English Language Institute Students: The University will register you for 2 classes. After you take the English placement assessment tests in Hilo in August, you will be able to add more classes.
Graduate and Professional Students: You may register for Fall 2015 classes on or after April 19.
How do I register for classes?
Registration for classes is done online through your online MyUH account (or go to the UH Hilo homepage and click on the “MyUH” link at the top). After logging in to your MyUH account, click on the link to Fall 2015 and the subject you are interested in to view available classes. Each of the classes will have a CRN (Course Registration Number) that you will enter in the computer system to register for the class. You can click on the CRN, followed by “Details” to see any prerequisites (a “prerequisite” is a class that is required before you can take another class). The class schedule is posted online.How do I know what classes to register for?
If you are a first-time freshman, your academic advisor will assist you during Orientation week with selecting appropriate classes.
If you are a transfer or exchange student, visit the Advising Center website for transfer students. This should help you select classes. You will also have the opportunity to meet with an academic advisor during Orientation to discuss your class schedule, add classes, and/or make changes to your class schedule. You can access the UH Hilo catalog which contains descriptions of all courses and other important information.
If you have been admitted into the English Language Institute, your academic advisor will assist you during Orientation week with selecting appropriate classes.
How much will my tuition and fees be?
After you register for classes, you can view your tuition and fee charges in your MyUH account (look for the “View My Charges” link in MyUH). You can also click here for more information.
When do I pay for my tuition and fees?
Information in payment deadlines will be posted soon. You can pay online, by mail, or in person at the UH Hilo Business Office. Click here for detailed information about paying for your tuition and fees or here for more information about tuition and fees payment deadlines.
Is there a payment plan?
Yes. You can sign up to pay for your tuition and fees in installments.
How much do I need to attend UH Hilo per year?
The non-resident undergraduate tuition and fees for the Fall 2015 semester is $9,684 (tuition) and $210 (fees). Some international students participating in reciprocal exchange programs will pay tuition at their home university and not at UH Hilo. All international students must pay the mandatory student fees of $210 per semester.
Students from the Pacific Islands that do not have a 4-year university pay 1.5 times the resident tuition rate, which is $5,184 per semester.
Hilo is a small city with a moderate cost of living. The University estimates housing (shared room), food, transportation and personal expenses at approximately $1,400 every month; however, expenses can vary widely depending individual living conditions and preferences. When you first arrive, you will need enough money to pay for your tuition and fees, initial housing payment (rent and security deposit if living off-campus) as well as money for books, items for your room, and perhaps a mobile phone. These costs may make the first month’s expenses two or three times the normal monthly cost.
Can I work while I attend UH Hilo?
Yes, international studentson F-1 student visas may work part-time (up to 20 hours per week when school is in session) on campus, although students are not guaranteed a job on campus. All jobs on campus are posted online. Students in J-1 visas must obtain approval from their sponsoring agency before working. Students from the FSM, Palau and the Marshall Islands) can work on-campus or off-campus.
If you are coming from any country besides Canada, follow the steps below to obtain an F-1 student visa to enter the U.S. (Students from Canada: See below for special instructions.) Students from the FSM, Palau and Marshall Islands are not required to have a visa to enter the U.S., so you can ignore this section. Students coming to UH Hilo on a J-1 visa should contact their sponsoring agency for information on obtaining a J-1 visa.
How do I obtain my student visa?
- Pay the required SEVIS fee. Note that you must have an I-20 form to pay this fee. UH Hilo sends you an I-20 form in the mail. Use the SEVIS ID number in the upper right corner of your I-20 form when you complete the I-901 SEVIS fee form. You should print a copy of your fee payment receipt and bring it with you when you enter the U.S.
- Complete and submit the visa application form. For Click here for a detailed description of the visa application process.
- Schedule an appointment for a visa interview at a U.S. embassy or consulate nearest to you. The waiting time for an interview appointment for applicants varies, so applying for a visa early is strongly recommended.
- Go to your scheduled visa appointment to apply for your visa. Bring the following documents:
- Passport (valid at least 6 months into the future)
- I-20 form (“Certificate of Eligibility”)
- Your letter of acceptance to UH Hilo
- Evidence of sufficient financial support
- Visa application (DS-160 form) confirmation page and application fee payment receipt (if you are required to pay before your interview)
- Photo: You will upload your photo when completing the visa application form (DS-160) online. If the photo upload fails, you must bring one printed photo in this format.
- SEVIS fee receipt (you can print a copy of your receipt after you pay the fee online)
- Any other documents required by your specific embassy or consulate
- At your visa interview, be prepared to explain (1) your academic and career goals and (2) your intention to return to your home country upon completion of your academic studies.
Students from Canada
Students from Canada are not required to obtain a student visa to enter the U.S. for studies. However, Canadian students should present the following to the Customs and Border Protection Officer upon arrival in the U.S.:
- Form I-20 issued by UH Hilo
- Proof of financial support
- Evidence of Canadian citizenship (passport)
- SEVIS fee payment receipt
Ensure that you are processed at the border with the proper student designation. Don’t enter the U.S. as a tourist!
Click here for helpful information about applying for a student visa.
Do I need health insurance?
Yes. UH Hilo requires all international students on F-1 and J-1 visas to have health insurance. It is strongly recommended that international students not on visas (i.e., students from Pacific Island Compact of Free Association nations) also have health insurance. Adequate health insurance is essential because the U.S. government does not pay for medical expenses and medical care in the U.S. is expensive. Health insurance must cover expenses of at least U.S. $100,000 for any one accident and $100,000 for any one illness. You can purchase insurance in your home country, although you will need to provide proof of insurance in English when you arrive. The University offers a health insurance plan for students and the Director of International Student Services can suggest other options. Dependents who are in the U.S. are also required to have adequate health insurance. Visit this website for more information.
This Facebook page will serve as an important way for the International Student Services office to communicate with you (in addition to communicating with you through your UH email account). If you are already on Facebook, please "like" the UH Hilo International Student Association Facebook page. If you are not on Facebook yet, create a free account. And follow us Twitter and Instagram.
UH Hilo and the Hilo community are generally very safe places to live with little crime. You should take precautions, however, such as locking your room and not leaving valuable items such as wallets, laptops, tablets, mobile phones, iPods, etc. unattended, and not walking alone at night off campus. Click here for more information about safety and security on campus.
Student organizations play a key role in the life of students. We urge you to get involved with organizations that give you experience in your major or in groups that share your interests and passions. UH Hilo has an active International Student Association that offers social activities and trips especially for international students throughout the year. In addition, UH Hilo has numerous other student clubs to get involved in.
Also read about things to see and do in Hilo.
What documents should I bring with me?
- Letter of acceptance from UH Hilo
- Valid passport (Note: Your passport should be valid for at least 6 months into the future)
- Students on F-1 student visas only: I-20 form, valid student visa, and proof of SEVIS fee payment
- Travel itinerary
Hawaii’s climate is generally warm (17° to 30° Celsius) with a cool/rainy season from November to April. Casual clothing is appropriate for most situations. Bring a sweater or light jacket, an umbrella and comfortable walking shoes. Hilo receives a lot of rain, although much of it comes at night. Be prepared for cool evenings and warm days. Light cotton and other cool clothing is recommended. You can bring clothing to represent your home country for special occasions.
What other things should I bring with me?
You should bring adequate supplies of medicines that you need from home. Prescription medicines will be difficult get in the U.S. If you wear contact lenses, please bring an adequate supply or be sure that you can order them while you are out of your home country. If you wear glasses it is a good idea to bring an extra pair in case the glasses get lost or broken. Consider bringing the following:
- Swim wear
- Sandals, walking shoes
- Clothes for using the gym
- School bag, backpack
- Single size sheets for residence hall beds
- Things that represent your culture/country (e.g., clothes, artifacts, photos)
The currency used in Hawai’i is the U.S. dollar. You can exchange money at any major airport, including the Honolulu airport, or at some of the major banks in Hilo. (Note, however, that money exchange is not available at the Hilo airport.) You may wish to open a bank account in Hawai’i after you arrive and obtain a debit/ATM card. We recommend that you bring a credit card in your name that you can use in the U.S. You can use a credit card in almost all situations and a credit card is safer and more secure than cash. Please check with your home bank to be sure that you can use the credit card in the U.S.
Is there a bank near campus?
There is a Bank of Hawaii ATM located on campus, and a variety of banks are located within walking distance of campus. When you arrive, you can open a bank account at the Bank of Hawaii or a nearby bank.
One of the things to consider before you leave for Hilo is what you want to do about a cell phone. You can buy inexpensive "pay-as-you-go" cell phones in Hilo, and buy minutes for calling, texting and data. Or you can buy a SIM card at a store in Hilo. If you want to bring your phone, you might want to consider a service offered through CampusSIMS. This service works with any unlocked GSM phone. The International Student Services office can give you a SIM card when you arrive in Hilo. Then you select a plan (as low as $25/month), pay for the service online, insert the SIM into your phone, activate it, and you can start using your phone as soon as you arrive in the U.S.!
When you have obtained your U.S. student visa, you will are eligible to enter the U.S. If you are entering the U.S. for a new program you may not enter the U.S. sooner than 30 days before the date on you I-20 form (Item 5 on your I-20 form). When traveling you should be prepared to present the following documents upon request by a Customs and Border Protection Officer:
- Passport with visa
- Form I-20
- Evidence of financial support
Note: Never pack your travel documents in your checked baggage. Have them readily available at all times.Do not do the following…
- DO NOT use an I-20 issued by another school if you plan to attend UH Hilo.
- DO NOT enter on a B-2 (tourist) visa.
- DO NOT enter the U.S. under the visa waiver program or with a non-student visa you may already have in your passport.
Click here for helpful information about what happens when you arrive in the U.S.
All new international students must attend this meeting on Tuesday, August 18, 2015 in the University Classroom Building (UCB) Room 100 at 8:30 am. Bring your passport (and, if you are a student on an F-1 visa, also bring your I-20 Form and proof of health insurance). Breakfast and lunch will be provided. Click here for a map of campus.
Click here for the orientation schedule for international students.
Who to Contact for More Information
Jim Mellon, Director of International Student Services & Intercultural Education
Location: Student Services Center Room E-204 (2nd floor)
Office Hours: 8:00-4:30 Monday through Friday
Todd Shumway, Director of Global Exchange
Tel: 808-932-7488 or 808-932-7489
Location: Student Services Center Room E-208 (2nd floor)
Office hours: 8:00-4:30 Monday through Friday