International House (IHouse)

Living Essentials


You will find it almost essential to have a bank account in the USA, unless you are here for a short period of time. We (USA Americans) use debit cards for almost all our purchases these days. We usually carry very little cash on us.

Opening an account
All you need to open a bank account is your passport, a U.S. address and some money to deposit. The bank will ask for your social security number (SSN) but you DO NOT NEED this number to open a bank account. If you are eligible for a SSN, just tell the bank you will give the number to them after you receive it. If you are not eligible for an SSN, that is fine. If you open up an interest-bearing savings account, you are eligible to apply for an Individual Tax Payer Identification Number (ITIN).

Wiring Money
If you want funds transferred electronically from your home to your bank here in the United States, you will need (1) the name of your bank, (2) your bank account number, and (3) your bank's routing number.  Each bank charges for wiring funds in and out of the country. Contact the individual banks for fees.

Fact Sheets

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Campus Resources

The information sheets below contain detailed description of how to access the resources and utilize them.

Duke Card for Students

Duke Card for Scholars

Duke University Libraries

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Cell Phones and Computers

  • Cell Phones: Introduction of where and how to buy cell phones or SIM cards. You can get a cell phone immediately and without a social security number. 
  • Buying or Repairing a Computer: Where to get a new or used computer and where to repair them.

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The Triangle area (Durham-Chapel Hill-Raleigh) is a great place to raise children. There are lots of family friendly things to do as well as many parks and green areas. Good Resources to check out include:  Carolina ParentDurham Parks & Recreation and Chapel Hill Parks & Recreation. That said, one really must have a car if you are coming here with children. For more information on how to go about purchasing a second-hand car, take a look at

Purchasing a Pre-Owned Car

or go to our Transportation section.

Fact Sheets

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Cultural Adjustment

Adjusting to a new culture while maintaining your own can be difficult. IHouse offers a variety of resources to help you successfully navigate the cultural maze.

Fact Sheets & Resources

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  • Departure Checklist: List of things "to do" prior to your departure from Duke.
  • Donations: of groups that accept donations of clothing, books, furniture, and other items.
  • Shipping & Storage: Companies which ship items overseas, where and how to store your stuff during breaks and recommended way to ship your books overseas.

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Durham boasts some of North Carolina's most notable chefs and restaurants. Nearly 500 restaurants can be found in Durham, with food ranging from North Carolina barbecue (traditionally pulled pork) to fresh seafood.  There are many diverse restaurants in Durham with a variety of cuisines.  Check out or subscribe to Bites of Bull City.

Restaurants Close to Campus.  There are some fun neighborhoods within walking distance to West and East Campuses.  The non-profit, Downtown Durham, is a wonderful resource for eateries walking distance to campus, coffee shops and much more.

Tips on Tipping.  In the United States a “tip” is NOT included in restaurant bills, haircuts, taxi rides or other services provided.  Take a look at this Consumer Reports information to learn more about tipping in the United States.

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If you are a student looking to work on campus, there are a number of student worker jobs on the Duke campus.  However you must find a job that does not require Work-Study.  Exception to this is if you have been granted Duke University aid.  As an international student you can work 19.9 hours maximum per week during the academic year.

If you are an international spouse on a J-2 visa and have been granted work permission, go to the spouses tab for some general tips on the job search.  If you are on the F-2 visa there are many opportunities in the community to volunteer.  Contact IHouse for more information about volunteering.

Finding Jobs on Campus  We developed this handout for the many students who asked us how to find a job on campus.   Best place to look for non-work study jobs on campus

Obtaining a Social Security Number  What documents you need to bring with you

Tax Payer Identification Number (otherwise known as ITIN).

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English as a Second Language

The best place to take English Language Classes is at Durham Technical Community College. Durham Tech offers classes at no charge in both Durham and Chapel Hill during the day and in the evenings.  You must attend the mandatory registration session in order to be enrolled for classes that semester.  DTCC also offers more academic English classes for a fee.  Note: Durham Tech does not provide childcare.

ESL Resources.  This handout includes information about where you can study and/or practice English language in the area.

Private Tutor List.  Hiring a Private English Language Tutor may be a better option given your circumstances.  Here is a list of local tutors and editors.

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Finding a Doctor, Eye and Dental Care

Finding an Optometrist.  If you need to find an eye doctor and/or get contact lens or glasses.

Finding a Dentist.  There is a dental clinic at the Student Wellness Center that is open to all at Duke.  However you can also go to a dentist in the community.

Finding a Doctor for Non-Students.  If you are a Duke student, you can go to the Duke Student Health Center for medical treatment.  This information is for everyone who is not a Duke student and needs to find a doctor or clinic.

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International House at Duke is actually an office and not a place to live.

Housing on campus is primarily for Duke Undergraduate Students. All graduate and professional students as well as visiting scholars need to find off-campus housing.

When you think about looking for a place to live, questions to consider include...

  • How much can I afford to spend on rent?
  • Do I want to share an apartment or house or do I want to live by myself?
  • Do I need to live within walking distance to campus or will I be driving to campus?*                        
  • Do I want to purchase my own furniture?**

*If you don't have a car, then we STRONGLY urge you to find a place to live within the Duke Vans zone.  However, you may choose to take public transportation to and from campus, check out this useful map for locating apartments near city bus stops.

**The majority of apartments in the U.S. are equipped with major appliances (stove/over, refrigerator, etc.).  However, unless stated otherwise rentals to not come with any furniture.  It is very easy to obtain furniture (new or second-hand).  You can do it!  Many people order items online and have it delivered straight to their apartment/house.  Take a look at our shopping resources to see where you can purchase second-hand furniture, rent a small truck if you need to transport your furniture, as well as where to rent furniture.

If you need assistance with finding a suitable place to live, email

Finding Housing

Fact Sheets

Price lists Fact Sheets

Resources for finding a place to live include:

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In case of emergency, dial 911 immediately

Duke University strives to be a safe place for students to learn, grow, and enjoy their college experience. Security is a shared responsibility and students, faculty, and staff are all valuable partners with Campus Security to help to maintain a safe campus community for all.  If you are living off campus and within the Duke Vans zone, we suggest putting the Duke RideCell App on your phone.

Safety Tips from IHouse

Duke Police Safety Information

Do not hesitate to contact International House with any questions and/or concerns you have.  No question is too small or too silly.

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Fact Sheets

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Do you wonder what you have to do about filing U.S. tax returns? You must first determine if you are a resident alien for tax purposes or a nonresident alien for tax purposes.  You can determine your status by going to the Duke Qualtrics link  or the  IRS website  

TurboTax assists with filing Federal form 1040 and State tax returns but only for U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals who are considered resident aliens for tax purposes. 

Sprintax assists with filing Federal 1040 NR/1040 NR-EZ and State tax returns for nonresident alien for tax purposes. 

For more information on which end of year tax forms you need to file  (W-2, 1099, 1042S), click here

All international students, scholars and their family members who stayed in the U.S. on a visa and are considered to be a nonresident alien for tax purposes in the previous year must file Form 8843 individually and send it to Department of Treasury, Internal Revenue Service Center, Austin, TX 73301-0215 by June 15 of each year. This is true whether or not you had any income in the previous year.  

If you did have U.S. based income in the previous year, you will also need to file a Federal tax return as well as a State tax return by April 15 of each year. 

Some countries have tax treaties with the U.S. that may reduce the amount of taxes you pay. Eligibility to invoke tax treaty benefits will not necessarily be structured around the date you begin work, but rather with your date of arrival in the U.S. To find out if your country has a tax treaty with the U.S., visit Corporate Payroll Services website 

For more detailed information or for additional questions, email Debbie Endsley, International Tax Payroll Coordinator. 

The International House staff cannot offer personal assistance beyond the information on our website.  We encourage you to seek advice from the Internal Revenue Service, the North Carolina Department of Revenue, or a qualified tax professional. 


Local Tax Professionals 

Margaret Hung 

H&R Block 

5322 NC Hwy 55, Suite 103 

Phone 919.294.8598 



Paul Scheible, CPA, PLLC 

3400 Croasdaile Drive, Suite 203 

Durham, NC 27705 

Phone 919.382.2507 



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Although your Duke Card serves as a Student ID in the United States, some students also want to obtain the International Student Identity Card otherwise known as ISIC.  One may obtain the card by going to the ISIC website,  The cost is $20.

There are a few bus and train options to visit other U.S. cities.

  • Greyhound
    Depart from Durham Bus Station (515 W. Pettigrew Street)
  • MegaBus
    4 trips daily to Atlanta, Washington DC, Richmond, New York, Charlotte, and other locations. Depart from Durham Bus Station (515 W. Pettigrew Street)
  • GoToBus
    Durham to NYC: $55 and up each way
  • Trains
    Durham Train Station
    601 W Main St, Suite 103
    Durham 27701

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Visa and Immigration Services

Duke Visa Services deals with visa & related legal services. International House does not do VISA work.

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