Information for New International Students
Congratulations on your acceptance to the University of Hawaiʻi Hilo (UH Hilo)! We look forward to seeing all of you on campus this coming semester. This page 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 on the admissions website)
- 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 information
- 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 Placement Test_(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
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.)
Create your MyUH Student Account
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. Visit https://www.hawaii.edu/username/ to create your MyUH Services account and click on "Get a UH Username." Don't forget your username and password after you create your account!
Submit your Mandatory Health Requirements Information
All students must meet health requirements before attending classes. You should send documentation that you have had the immunizations in the list below to the UH Hilo Student Medical Services. Or you can have a doctor fill out the Health Requirements Form. If you have not had these immunizations, or if you are not able to provide records to prove that you have had them, you can get the immunizations in Hilo. Please be aware that there will be a fee for these immunizations and you may need to go to a pharmacy in Hilo to get them. The immunizations include:
- Two doses of measles or MMR vaccination. You will need to get these vaccinations in Hilo if the Health Requirements Form that you submit indicates that you have not already had them. View more MMR information in English, Chinese, Japanese and Korean. Vaccine information in languages other than English is available . If you have questions, please contact Heather Hirata .
- Varicella (chicken pox).
- Tdap (Tetanus-diphtheria-acellular pertussis).
If you will be living in the residence halls on campus and if you are 21 years old or younger, you are also required to have been vaccinated with MCV (Meningococcal Conjugate).
In addition, all students must be cleared for Tuberculosis (TB) before attending classes. You must get 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.
Arrange your Travel to Hilo
- When should I arrive in Hilo?
- Plan on arriving in Hilo on Tuesday, August 17, 2021. It is important to arrive on August 17 because there will be a required meeting for all new international students on August 18 in the morning. You may arrive in Hilo before August 17, but the residence halls do not open until August 17, so you will need to stay a hotel if you arrive in Hilo before August 17.
Submit the Airport Arrival Form Online
- Will someone be at the airport in Hilo to pick me up?
- Yes, free transportation from the Hilo airport to campus will be provided on August 17. Sign up for free transportation to campus on August 17.
- 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 $20-$25, excluding baggage charges and the customary tip of 10-15%, and are available at the Hilo airport. Other options include Uber or Lyft . There is a public bus that stops at the Hilo airport, but it does not run frequently.
Sign Up for Orientation
- When does orientation for international students begin?
- All international students are required to attend a special orientation meeting on Wednesday, August 18 in the morning. 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 orientation meeting, you will learn about important information, such as registration for classes, placement tests, adjusting to life at UH Hilo and in Hawaiʻi, cultural differences, and much more. You will also get your UH Hilo ID card, TB test and a tour of campus. There will also be opportunities to go shopping. And you will begin to make new friends! There is no fee required to participate in this special orientation meeting for international students.
- When does the campus-wide orientation begin?
- The optional campus-wide orientation for all new students begins on August 18. 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 $50 fee to participate in the campus-wide orientation. We recommend that you participate! Sign up online.
Find a Place to Live
- Can I live on campus in the residence halls (dormitories)?
- Yes, if there is space available. To try to live on campus, you must submit an online 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, contact the Housing Office at firstname.lastname@example.org and ask for an "override" so that you can apply online for housing. The Housing Office can enable you to submit an application online without a credit/debit card, and you will be billed later for the $10 housing application fee. Visit the University Housing website for more information about housing on campus.
- How much does it cost to live on campus?
- The cost varies depending on which residence hall you live in. Visit the Living on Campus page for information on the room rates. In addition, you must purchase a meal plan if you live on campus in any residence hall except for Hale ʻIkena (which has a kitchen).
- 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, WiFi and wired internet access 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. Here are some off-campus housing options.
- How do students get around?
- Hilo has an affordable bus system serving the Big Island, including the communities surrounding the UH Hilo campus. Taxis, Uber and Lyft are also available in Hilo. 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. Hawaiʻi State law requires automobile insurance for all drivers. Also, you will need a current International Driver’s License or get a Hawaiʻi State driver’s license to be able to own a car in Hawaiʻi.
Apply for Financial Aid & Scholarships
Students from the Federated States of Micronesia (FSM), Palau and the Marshall Islands are eligible to apply for U.S. federal financial aid . Students from the FSM, Palau and the Marshall Islands 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, view more information on scholarships for international students.
Learn about Degree Requirements & Academic Advising
An excellent resource is the Career and Academic Advising Center website.
- 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 meet 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.
Learn about English Placement Assessment Tests
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 test 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. Find out if you have to take the test. You should take this test online before you register for classes. View more information about the English language placement assessment 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. Find out if you must take the Writing Placement Assessment test. If you are required to take it, you should take this test online before you register for classes. View more information about the English writing placement assessment test.
- 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.
Take the Math Placement Assessment Test
- Do I need to take the Math Placement Assessment test?
- If you plan to major in a science, business, or agriculture, you should take the Math Placement Assessment Test. You should also take the math placement assessment test if you need to take a chemistry class and you do not have the required transferable chemistry classes from another university. You should take this test online before you arrive. View more information about the Math placement assessment test.
Register for Classes
When do I register for classes?
- The term "freshmen" refers to students who will enroll in a university for the first time and who have not attended another college or university prior to coming to UH Hilo. New freshmen can start registering on May 3 after 6:00 am (Hawaii Standard Time).
- Transfer and Exchange Students
- New transfer and exchange students can start registering on April 10 after 6:00 am (Hawaii Standard Time).
- English Language Institute Students
- You will register for classes during orientation in Hilo in August, after you take the required English placement assessment tests. The English Language Institute staff will assist you with registering for classes.
- Graduate & Professional Students
- New graduate and professional school students can start registering on Apirl 18 after 6:00 am (Hawaii Standard Time).
- How do I register for classes?
- Registration for classes is done online using MyUH Services. After logging in to your MyUH account with your UH username and password, follow the link to STAR GPS Registration. This will take you to the Guided Pathway System (GPS), which you will use to register for your classes. Videos and instructions on how to use GPS are available. Also review the Frequently Asked Questions about the GPS Registration system.
- How do I know what classes to register for?
- GPS will show you what classes you should register for. (Note to international exchange students: Disregard the classes that show up in GPS; instead, go to "Add Personal Choice" and select the classes that you want to register for.) Students planning to earn a degree from UH Hilo can contact Jim Mellon if you have questions or need advice about what classes to register for. International exchange students can contact Todd R. Shumway if you have questions or need advice. 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. The Class Schedules are posted online.
Find out how much your Tuition & Fees are
- How much will my tuition and fees be?
- The Tuition schedule lists the cost of tuition and fees. 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).
- When do I pay for my tuition and fees?
- Visit the billing and payment deadlines page for more information about tuition and fee payment deadlines.
- How do I pay for my tuition and fees?
- You can pay online, by mail, or in person at the UH Hilo Business Office. You can also pay using an international bank account using "Flywire." The University of Hawaiʻi does not accept wire transfers or payments attempted through email. View detailed information about paying for your tuition and fees.
- 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 2021 semester is $10,152 (tuition) and $247 (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 $247 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 $5,508 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 students on 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 on 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.
Obtain a Student Visa
If you are coming from any country except 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 skip 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 (also called the "I-901 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 left 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. Watch a tutorial on how to pay the I-901 SEVIS fee .
- Complete and submit the visa application form . View more information about how to apply for a student visa from the Study in the States website .
- 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 the format specified by the U.S. State Department .
- 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. View advice on how to prepare for your F-1 visa interview .
- 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 enter the U.S. with the proper student designation. Do not enter the U.S. as a tourist!
Obtain Health Insurance
- 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 meet certain requirements. You can either purchase the University's student health insurance plan or purchase health insurance in your home country or from a US-based health insurance company. If you do not purchase the University's health insurance plan, you must have the health insurance company complete this health insurance form. The Director of International Student Services can suggest US-based health insurance plans that meet the University's requirements. Dependents who are in the U.S. are also required to have adequate health insurance.
Follow us on Social Media
Follow UHHISA (UH Hilo International Student Association) on social media (Facebook, Instagram and Twitter). This will help you stay informed about important information, events and deadlines.
Learn about Safety on Campus
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, etc. unattended, and not walking alone at night off campus. The Campus Security website has more information about safety and security on campus.
Laws and cultural norms vary around the world about the topic of sexual assault, sexual harassment, and relationship violence, so it is important that international students understand the laws and expectations in the U.S. and at UH Hilo. Please take a few minutes to view this short video designed to provide international students with the facts about what sexual assault and consent is, how to prevent an assault from happening and what to do if one does occur. Counseling Services has more information about sexual assault and relationship violence, including points of contact for additional information.
Learn about Student Clubs & Organizations
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 lots of other student clubs in which you can get involved.
Also read about things to see and do in Hilo .
Pack and Get Ready to Come to 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
- What type of clothes should I bring with me?
- Hawaiʻi’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)
- What about money?
- The currency used in Hawaiʻi 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 Hawaiʻi after you arrive and obtain a debit/ATM card. If possible, we recommend that you bring a bank card (debit or credit) in your name that you can use in the U.S. You can use a bank card in almost all situations and a bank card is safer and more secure than cash. Please check with your home bank to be sure that you can use the bank card in the U.S.
- Is there a bank near campus?
- There is a Bank of Hawaiʻi 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 Hawaiʻi 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 $15/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.! Another similar option is provided by J1SIMcards.com . No contracts are required and you can cancel any time. Plans start at $25/month. Contact the International Student Services office to request a free SIM card for your smart phone.
Enter the United States
For students coming to the U.S. on an F or J student visa: 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 Program Start Date 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.
Attend the Required Meeting for New International Students
All new international students must attend the required meeting for new international students. 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 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 meeting. See the campus map to locate the University Classroom Building (UCB).
Who to Contact for More Information
Executive Director, Global & Intercultural Education Programs; Director, International Student Services & Intercultural Education