Pre-Arrival

If your visa is approved, you will need to begin planning your temporary move to the United States (U.S.). In addition to the information below, please review the Visitor Responsibilities and Travel sections of this site. Once your flight is arranged, please contact Deirdre Griffin with your travel itinerary so that we may plan appropriately for your arrival.

Travel to the U.S. 

When you enter the U.S., please make sure you have the appropriate date stamps before you leave the entry area at the airport.

You are eligible to enter the U.S. 30 days before the program start date listed on your DS-2019. However, you may not begin working at the Institute until your program start date or later, and your first day of work at the Institute will be scheduled on a Monday. Please see the Health Insurance section for more information about purchasing an interim health insurance plan for your travel and/or your time in the U.S. before starting at the Institute.

The following links may be helpful when planning your travel to the U.S.:

Relocation Assistance 

After you obtain your visa, we will notify our Relocation Coordinator, who will be able to assist you with your relocation needs. These needs might include housing, shopping, schooling for dependents, English translation services, arranging a bank account, getting a social security number, and any other relocation needs you may have. The Institute pays the costs of these relocation services.

IMPORTANT NOTE: The requirements for applying for a Michigan Driver’s License have recently changed.

Since the new application requirements may present difficulties for some exchange visitors, there are alternatives to consider if you plan to drive while you are in Grand Rapids. You may be able to drive based on the reciprocity agreements for foreign nationals who are in possession of a valid foreign driver’s license, although you are strongly encouraged to obtain an international driver’s permit. An international driver’s permit is verification that you have a valid foreign license and it must be issued by your home country. An international driver’s permit will also allow you to rent a car if you meet the eligibility requirements of the car rental company (such as age requirements). More Information About Applying for a Driver’s License in the U.S.

The Institute does not have dormitory housing, a formal housing office, or its own bussing system, so the Relocation Coordinator will assist you with your housing needs and acquaint you with the public transportation system in Grand Rapids, The Rapid.  Please keep in mind that while many people successfully use The Rapid to get to and from work, Grand Rapids’ public transportation system may not be as sophisticated as your home city or what you may encounter in a very large U.S. city.

As you consider the various housing options in Grand Rapids, the following may be helpful:

  • Heritage Hill Association : Heritage Hill is a historic district near the Institute; you can find apartment listings on the Heritage Hill Association web site.
  • rentGR.com: Search rental listings in Grand Rapids by rental amount, number of bedrooms, and other factors.
  • The Rental Property Owners Association:Search a weekly rental guide of rental listings sponsored by the Rental Property Owner’s Association of Kent County; Grand Rapids is located in Kent County.
  • Relocation Central: This company can also help you find an apartment. Not all of their services are free; please verify with them which services have a cost and which do not. 

If you are interested in renting or purchasing a car when you arrive, our Relocation Coordinator can assist you with this.

The Relocation Coordinator may contact you before your arrival in the U.S., but you will probably want to stay in a hotel or find temporary housing for the time between your arrival and when the Relocation Coordinator assists you in finding housing. If you would like us to make arrangements for you to stay at a hotel in downtown Grand Rapids until you find housing, please contact us. The cost of the hotel stay will be charged against your relocation reimbursement.

For general Grand Rapids and West Michigan relocation information, please see the following web sites:

Finances and Paycheck

Your first paycheck will not be issued for a few weeks or more after you arrive, so you will need to plan your finances accordingly. However, relocation reimbursements are generally processed quickly, so you are encouraged to complete an expense report for your relocation reimbursement as soon as possible after your arrival if you are in need of funding. 

If you plan to claim tax treaty exemption, you must provide all applicable documentation to the Institute’s Payroll Department and allow sufficient time for your exemption claim to be processed prior to receiving your first paycheck. You will have access to the Foreign National Payment Procedure on the Institute’s intranet on your first day of work for details on what is required, including applicable timelines mandated by U.S. tax law. For information from the U.S. Internal Revenue Service regarding taxation, please see Foreign Students and Scholars.