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30th May 2023
Afia Azmi

The Ultimate Accommodation Handbook for International Students in the USA

The USA is a highly sought-after destination for international students, offering a wide range of accommodation options tailored to meet their needs. From affordable dormitories to shared apartments and private student housing, there is a perfect choice for every budget and lifestyle. When it comes to accommodation in USA for students, thorough research is crucial to finding the ideal fit.

Factors like location, cost, amenities, and safety should be carefully considered. Additionally, proximity to public transportation, campus facilities, and student support services can significantly enhance the student experience.

Types of Accommodation

When it comes to accommodation in the USA for students, there are two main options: on-campus and off-campus housing.

  • On-campus housing provides the convenience of being near classes and campus facilities like dormitories, residence halls, and apartments. However, it can be pricey and may not offer the desired level of privacy or comfort.

  • Off-campus housing is often more affordable but may require a commute to classes and campus activities.

Whether it's the convenience of on-campus housing or the affordability of off-campus options, finding the right accommodation ensures a comfortable and enjoyable experience for international students studying in the USA.

Cost of accommodation
Accommodation RentDeposit
On-Campus Housing $11,510 per semester$400-$1000
Apartments $1,800 per monthUpto $1200
Apartments (Sharing) $700 per month$400-$700
Home-stays $900-$1600 per month$100-$300
Co-living $900-$2000$30-$40 per month
Off-Campus Housing Options
AccommodationProsCons
Apartments
  • Flexible Duration 
  • Amenities like Gyms and Swimming Pools, etc
  • Maintenance Managed by landlords
  • Location Accessibility 
  • Can be Expensive
  • Restrictions on renovations
  • Lease restrictions and landlord rules
Shared Apartment
  • Cost-Sharing and affordable
  • Helps Socialize and Build Friendships
  • Shared Responsibilities and Ownership
  • Lack of Privacy 
  • Compatibility and Lifestyle Differences
Homestays 
  • Opportunity to blend with local culture and customs 
  • Guidance and Security to navigate freely
  • Meals and Amenities provided
  • Helps building relationships
  • Limited independence
  • Lack of Privacy Due to shared personal space
  • Cultural differences
Co-Living Spaces
  • Sense of Community and Togetherness
  • Basic Amenities are provided
  • Flexible Duration 
  • Shared Responsibilities and Ownership
  • Noisy and lifestyle Differences
  • Lack of Choice in Choosing Roommates
How to Secure Accommodation in The USA?
  • Research

Begin exploring off-campus housing choices as soon as possible to understand the rental market in the area where the institution is located. Think about things like location, affordability, transport, and safety. 

  • Budget

Determine your budget and find housing options that meet it. Be realistic about what you can afford. When searching for off-campus housing, you should factor in the cost of rent, utilities, and other expenses like internet and cable. You should also consider the cost of commuting if you need to commute to campus or to work. 

  • Look for listings

Check out online classifieds websites such as Craigslist, Apartments.com, and Zillow to search for available apartments and houses for rent. Some universities also have online housing search portals for students. You may also hire a real estate agent to assist you in your search. Realtors usually have access to a wide selection of properties that are not listed online. Additionally, you can also ask friends and family for recommendations. 

  • Contact landlords

Contacting landlords who have properties for rent is essential. It's imperative to thoroughly research the area and the landlord before signing a lease. Ask the landlord about their payment policies, pet policies, and other vital details. 

  • Consider roommates

Look for suitable roommates. You'll want to make sure you are compatible with your potential roommates. Talk with them about expectations and living habits, and make sure you are on the same page. Establishing boundaries and expectations early on is also essential to avoid conflicts later. 

  • Plan a visit

Visit the university and the surrounding area to view potential off-campus housing options in person. This will give you a better understanding of the neighbourhood and the house. 

  • Sign the lease

Once you have found the perfect off-campus housing, the next step is to sign the lease. Read the lease carefully and understand the terms and conditions before signing. Ensure you know of additional fees or costs, such as security deposits or utility bills. Once you have signed the lease, you can move into your new hom

Legal Requirements for Accommodation
Visa RequirementsInternational students in the USA must possess a valid visa and university-approved passport to be eligible for accommodation. This ensures legal residency and safeguards against deportation risks.
Lease AgreementsInternational students must sign a lease agreement with their landlord, specifying the rent, security deposit, duration of stay, and property usage restrictions.
Rental applicationAll international students must complete a rental application and submit evidence such as a passport or visa as part of the renting procedure. 
Tenant rightsTenants in the USA have legal rights such as a safe and habitable living environment, a written contract, privacy, and proper notice of lease agreement changes.
Security DepositInternational students renting accommodation in the USA may be required to pay a refundable security deposit, which is typically returned at the end of the tenancy if no damage has occurred.
InsuranceLandlords often require rental insurance to protect tenants and landlords against potential damages caused by disasters such as fires or floods.
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Safety and Security

Safety and security are important considerations for international students when choosing accommodation in the USA. -

  • Location

Location is essential in ensuring safety and security for accommodation. Research the area where you will be staying and ensure it is in a safe neighbourhood with low crime rates.

  • Building Security

Building security is paramount for accommodation. Look into the safety and security measures of the building, such as CCTV cameras, security guards, and access control systems. Ask the building manager about the history of the building and its reputation for safety. 

  • Fire Safety

All accommodations should have functional smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, and proper exit pathways in an emergency. 

  • Personal Safety

Take steps to ensure their personal safety, such as locking doors and windows, not sharing personal information with strangers, and avoiding walking alone at night. 

  • Emergency Contacts

Have access to emergency contacts, such as the local police department, fire department, and medical services. Have contact information of the landlord or housing office in case of emergencies. 

Resources For Finding Information
University International Student Services OfficeMost universities have an International Student Services office that provides resources and support to international students. 
Online Housing Search PlatformsSeveral online platforms offer listings of available accommodation options for students, such as Student.com, Apartments.com, and Zillow.com. 
Social Media GroupsPlatforms like Facebook and Instagram host dedicated housing groups, while blogs and forums offer helpful information and support.
Local Real Estate AgentsLocal Real Estate Agents can offer invaluable advice and assistance in finding suitable accommodation in the USA for international students. 
Online Forums and Discussion BoardsOnline forums and discussion boards like Reddit and Quora can provide valuable insights and advice from other international students. 
Post-Arrival in The USA
Attend OrientationColleges and universities offer orientation programs to inform new international students about the culture, language, customs, and accommodation options. These programs also cover important topics like student visas and legal rights.
Register for classesUpon arrival in the USA, promptly registering for classes is essential for international students. Depending on their visa type, students must enroll in a specific number of credits to maintain their immigration status and comply with relevant laws.
Obtain a Social Security NumberSocial Security Number (SSN) is a nine-digit identifying number provided by the Social Security Administration (SSA) for tax and identification reasons. It is necessary for employment and several government benefits. 
Obtain a driver's license or state IDIf you plan to drive in the USA, you must obtain a driver's license. If you do not intend to drive, you can get a state ID as an alternative form of identification. 
Open bank accountOpening a bank account in the US is vital as it facilitates receiving payments, managing finances, accessing credit, and utilizing various financial services like online banking, investment accounts, and savings accounts.
Enrol in clubs and organizationsJoining clubs and societies at university is a great way to meet people, make friends and learn about the country's culture. 
Explore your surroundingsTake time to explore your new surroundings and get to know the culture and customs. Visit museums, parks, and other landmarks, and try fresh foods and experiences. 
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Q.1) Which areas to avoid in the USA for accommodation?

Memphis, Tennessee; Detroit, Michigan; and Baltimore, Maryland are areas with high crime rates, and it is advisable to avoid them when seeking accommodation in the USA due to safety concerns.

Q.2) What should I do if I have issues with my accommodation?

International students must promptly report accommodation issues to their landlord or housing provider and seek assistance from their university or college to resolve the matter effectively.

Q.3) Can international students work to pay for their accommodation?

International students can work on-campus for up to 20 hours per week, but the earnings may not suffice for accommodation costs. Off-campus employment options exist, but proper work authorization is required.

Q.4) Which is the best area to live in USA for international students? 

For a vibrant cultural scene and a large number of international students, consider cities like New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles. If you prefer a relaxed college town atmosphere, Austin, Texas, or Ann Arbor, Michigan are excellent choices.

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