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What to Do When You Arrive



Within three days of your arrival in Milwaukee, you are required to check-in at the ISSS Office and sign up for your mandatory International StudentOrientation in Garland Hall, Room 138.

Please bring your passport, visa and I-20 at this time.


International Student Orientation

All international students are required to attend one International Student Orientation.  The orientation program is designed to make your transition to life as astudent in the U.S. and at UWM as easy as possible.  Each semester, new students may choose between attending a comprehensive full-day orientation or abrief "Just the Facts" orientation.  Remember: you only need to attend one of these sessions.

Full-Day Orientation

This session includes vital information about mandatory immigration regulations, how to maintain your visa status, academics (academic success,misconduct, plagiarism, etc.) cultural adjustment, culture shock issues, health insurance, legal rights, lunch, and additional topics.

The full-day session is a good orientation for students new to the U.S. or who wish to meet new people prior to their program starting.

"Just the Facts" Orientation

This session includes only basic required information about mandatory immigration regulations, how to maintain visa status, U.S. academics and healthinsurance.  This is a good orientation for transfer students or for those who have already lived in the U.S.


Placement Testing

All new freshmen are required to complete placement exams before they can register for classes.  You will need to complete either 2 or 3 placement examsdepending on your major.

To register for your test date and to find more information about the tests given, please visit the UWM Testing Center website.


Required Tests (for undergraduate students only):

Math Placement: You can sign up to complete this exam any time "Placement" or "Placement Expanded" is offered.

English Placement: You must complete only one of these exams: 

  • ESL-PIC: This is for non-native speakers of English. You can sign up to complete this exam any time "ESL-PIC" is offered.
  • English Placement: This is for native speakers of English. You can sign up to complete this exam any time "Placement" or"Placement Expanded" is offered.

Chemistry Placement:  Some majors require that you complete a chemistry placement test in addition to math and English.  If your majorrequires the chemistry test, you can sign up to complete this exam anytime "Placement" or "Placement-Expanded" is offered.  List of majors that require the chemistry placement test.


Meet with Your Advisor (for undergraduate students only)

Undergraduate students should meet with their assigned advisor after taking placement tests but before registering for classes.  To find your advisor's nameand contact information, log into your PAWS account and it will be listed in the top-right-hand corner. 


Health Insurance 

International students are automatically enrolled in the health insurance policy which is approved by UWM. Health insurance is mandatory. Students may notsubstitute other insurance policy coverage for the UWM approved insurance coverage.



Once you arrive in Milwaukee, you may need to purchase various items for your living space, school supplies and groceries.  There are many shoppingmalls, grocery stores, small shops and superstores near UWM.  It is possible to walk to some and others are accessible through the Milwaukee CountyTransit System buses.  Here are a few nearby shopping destinations:

Grocery Stores

  • Pick ‘n Save: 1100 E. Garfield
  • Sendik's: 2643 N Downer Ave.
  • Whole Foods: 2305 N Prospect Ave.


You can buy everything from bed sheets to groceries to electronics at these stores

  • Wal-Mart: 401 E Capitol Dr.
  • Target: 1501 Miller Park Way

Shopping  Malls

  • Bayshore Mall: 5800 N Bayshore Drive (This is the closest mall to campus: take the MCTS GREEN Line northbound)
  • Mayfair Mall: 2500 N Mayfair Road
  • Brookfield Square Mall: 95 N Moorland Road

Pharmacies/Drug Stores

  • Walgreens: 4081 N Oakland Ave
  • CVS/pharmacy: 2607 N Downer Ave




At UWM, your main means of contact with your advisor and professors will be your UWM PantherLink e-mail.  You can also set up a calendar through youremail to keep track of your class schedule and appointments.

After you have been admitted to UWM, you can set up your UWM e-mail account by visiting the Indentiy & Access Management webpage.  Type in yourUWM student ID number (99X-XX-XXX) and your date of birth (mm/dd/yyyy).  Be sure to follow the instructions carefully.

If you have any questions about your e-mail address or account, please contact the help desk at or 414-229-4040.

Cell Phone

We recommend all students have a cell phone while at UWM.  You can either bring a phone with a plan from home or arrange to have services here in theU.S.  Although international students sometimes encounter problems enrolling in a cell phone plan without a social security number, some providers arewilling to offer services without it.  Explain your situation with an employee at one of the provider stores and they should be able to work something out.  

Information on cell phone provider stores that are located near campus is below:

  • AT&T: 632 E Ogden Ave, 414-273-8349
  • Verizon Wireless: 5790 N Port Washington Rd, 414-967-5622
  • Sprint: 1428 E Brady St, 414-763-4061
  • US Cellular: 5800 N Bayshore Dr., 414-906-1587


Social Security Number

The U.S. government assigns Social Security numbers to people who are authorized to work in the United States and who have employment.  A SocialSecurity number is only required if you work in the U.S. and can be obtained with proof of legal employment.   F-1 visa status allows students to work while inthe U.S., under certain restrictions.  Thus, many international students are eligible for social security numbers.

Fall 2014 Group Visits to Social Security Office

The Milwaukee downtown Social Security Administration (SSA) has made special arrangements for UWM students who possess on campus employment to come to their office on two specific days as a group to bring in their application materials for a Social Security Card. Please register for one of the following dates (and be sure to check in at the ISSS office before the date of the SSA visit).

How to Apply for a Social Security Number

  • Pick up the form "Letter of Offer for On Campus Employment" from the ISSS office in Garland 138. Give it to your on-campus employer and have them complete it (If you have an assistantship, ISSS will complete this form. You do not need to take it to your department).
  • Return the form to the ISSS Office. We will then issue you a second letter to verify your visa status and employment eligibility.
  • Take both letters, your passport, visa and UWM I-20 to the Social Security Administration office. Although there are several offices in the Milwaukee area, we suggest you visit the one located at 310 W Wisconsin Ave. in Downtown Milwaukee.
  • IMPORTANT: You must have ALL of the required letters and documents in order to get a Social Security number. If you are missing any required documentation, you will not be eligible to apply.
  • When you apply for the Social Security number you will be required to complete and submit an application, Form SS-5.  This form is available at the Social Security office and online.
  • Be sure to ask for a "Receipt of Application" from the Social Security Officer. If you are applying prior to the start date of your job, the this will be mailed to you.

After you have applied for a Social Security number:

  • Take your receipt to the payroll office in Engelmann Hall, Room 170.
  • When you receive your original Social Security card in the mail, take it to the payroll office in Engelmann Hall Room 170, so they can make a photo copy.
  • Note: It can take up to 2 months to receive your original card in the mail, so the receipt is very important!

Wisconsin Driver's License and State ID

It is a good idea to have a driver's license or state issued ID while living in the United States, regardless of whether you will be driving.  You will likely need one for activities like cashing checks, enrolling in a cellphone plan and opening a bank account.

Driving in the U.S.

You are legally allowed to drive in the United States with your driver's license issued in your home country for a period not exceeding one year from the date of your arrival.  You may drive a personal or rental car.

We recommend you obtain an international driver's permit from your home country before arriving in the United States or attach an English translation to your national driver's license. 

You may apply for a Wisconsin driver's license at any time, either right away or after driving on your international license for one year.  Please keep in mind you will likely need to take a driving test to obtain this license.

Obtaining a Wisconsin State ID or Driver's License

Wisconsin state ID's and driver's licenses are obtained at the Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV).  In order to obtain an ID, you must go to the DMV in person.  Be sure to give yourself plenty of time, as there may be a long wait.

The DMV office nearest to the UWM campus is located downtown:

  • 819 N. 6th St #190, Milwaukee, WI 53203
  • 414-266-1000
  • Website
  • Hours of Operation: Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday 8:15am-4:15pm, Wednesday 8:30am-4:15pm

In order to obtain a Wisconsin State ID, be sure to bring the following documents to the DMV:

  • Proof of name and date of birth: an unexpired foreign passport will suffice.
  • Proof of identity: UWM Student ID and passport.
  • Proof of Wisconsin residency: a piece of mail with your current name and Wisconsin address.
  • Your U.S. Social Security card (if you have one).

For information on obtaining a Wisconsin Driver's license please visit the Wisconsin Department of Motor Vehicles Website.


Buying Books

Many students decide to purchase their course books at the UMW and Panther bookstores, while others opt for outside book vendors.  The choice is yours.

Note: When buying books make sure that you keep all receipts and invoices in case you need to return any items.

UWM Bookstore

Located in the UWM Union on the 1st floor. 

  • 414-229-4201

Pather Bookstore

Located close to campus on 3132 N Downer Ave.

  • 414-967-1111

Online Stores:

On-Campus Jobs

Many international students seek on-campus employment.  International students who hold F-1 visas are generally allowed to work on campus. Certain visa restrictions apply and these will be explained at international student orientation.

You can search and apply for on-campus jobs at

If you apply for a job, consider the following:

  • On-campus employers are most interested in your availability for entry level positions. When you apply for a job, you need to indicate when you have classes or other obligations on the application.  If you submit an application without completing the availability section, the employer may not contact you.
  • Most employers ask you to list a reference.  Write the name of a former boss, coach or teacher and their email address. If you don't have prior work experience or a reference available, you can still apply. 
  • Most student job openings happen at the beginning of semesters and during breaks between semesters.  You may be able to work full time during the vacation months.
  • If you apply for a job and do not hear back in a week's time, you are welcome to contact the person in charge of hiring and express that you are still interested in the position.  If the hiring manager tells you that you were not selected, it is acceptable to politely ask him or her why.