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Survival Guide for International Visitors

The International Faculty and Staff Services site has a wealth of resources for international visitors; this is just a brief summary of the information available on their site. General information about living in Madison can also be found at: Living and Working in Madison or through the Visitor and Information Programs Site.


Renting an apartment generally requires payment of the first month’s rent and a security deposit, therefore it is important to budget accordingly. Apartments vary in terms of the amenities included (heat, electricity, water, parking) so talk with the property manager to determine what you will be required to pay.

The division of University Housing provides housing to University students, faculty, academic staff, honorary fellows, research associates, and postdoctoral scholars. The university apartments are close to campus and come furnished or unfurnished. There is also child care offered. Application and more information can be found the University Housing site. Another option to search for housing in Madison or near the University of Wisconsin Madison campus is to go to Apartments available in downtown Madison and the campus area can also be found at Madison: campus & downtown living. Additional housing information from UW

You will also be required to set up your own internet, phone and television service. You can contact companies such as Charter, AT&T, TDS, and DIRECTV.


It is important to have enough money to survive the first few months in Madison; however, it may not be a good idea to bring a large sum of cash, instead use traveler’s checks, electronic banking/ATM/check card, international credit cards, bank checks/drafts or wire transfers. You may want to open an account in a bank that has a branch in the US prior to coming to the states. Remember that there is not a foreign exchange office in Madison therefore you should have some US currency on hand when you arrive.

If you have not done so prior to arriving in the US, it is important to set up a bank account. The IFSS can provide you with information on banks near the UW Madison campus. You should do some research to compare the services and fees and determine what bank best fits your needs. There are two types of accounts you can open, a savings account for storing money and a checking account for money that you need to access for bills. Understand that most banks will ask for a SSN, but it may be possible depending on the bank to open an account without one. The bank staff should be able to assist you in setting up an account and explain common banking procedures in the US.


The International Faculty & Staff Services site provides information on completing tax forms, workshops and benefit services. In order to file taxes you will need to obtain a social security number (SSN). The US government has a site with instructions for getting a SSN. The IFSS and human resources can also assist you to obtain a SSN.

Health care in the United States is very expensive; therefore, the University requires all international visitors to carry some form of health insurance. The Student Health Insurance Plan (SHIP) is available and provides comprehensive coverage. Individuals who do not enroll in SHIP must complete a waiver application and provide the UW with proof of health insurance coverage. An international visitor must enroll in SHIP or provide documentation of an acceptable health insurance plan within 30 days of coming to the US. The IFSS can provide assistance in navigating the US healthcare system. More information is available at the University Health Services Site.


The University provides free bus passes to certain university employees; check the site to see if you qualify. UW Madison transportation services also offer a variety of solutions for commuting. Understand that parking on the UW campus is limited and expensive.

Language Help

UW Madison’s Greater University Tutoring Services offers a free conversational English program for those who would like to practice their English. Just click on the “get a tutor” tab, and then click on “Learn how to get a Conversational English tutor.” Copyright © 2017 The Board of Regents of the University of Wisconsin System