Checklists/How to do lists for international PhD students/hired academics/academics on mobility - PRE Arrival

Well-structured checklist covering the necessary steps to undertake to prepare for arrival efficiently. It can help improve the efficiency of preparing for the arrival in a host country/institution by minimizing mistakes. It should be precise, efficient, easy to use, and straight to the point. It may include a roadmap of the necessary steps.


Improved access to information Improved quality of service

Basic information

Categories Family Matters Administrative & Legal Support Accommodation Social security, Health Insurance, Taxation Visa, Residence & Work Permit Social Integration & Daily Life Language Support, Language Policy Safety, Healthcare & Wellbeing
Mobility stages Pre-arrival phase Upon arrival
Delivery schedule Not defined
Importance Essential to have
Scale of organizational change
Target groups PhD student/Early career researcher R2 - R4 researchers Lecturers (incl. Language Teachers)
Types of contracts of researchers Full degree student Visiting scholar Employee in training (interns, research fellows, postdocs) Fixed term employee Exchange student
Career stages of researchers Less than 6 months 6-12-months of experience 1-3-years of experience 3-10 years of experience 10-15 years of experience More than 15 years of experience
Lengths of stays of researchers 0-3 months 3-6 months 6-12 months More than 12 months

Practice setup

When creating the checklist for international PhD students, visiting or hired academics/researchers, and their family members regarding their duties before arrival in a host country/institution you can consider the following steps:

Phase 1: Planning

  • Define the target groups for which the checklist is intended:

    • EU/Non-EU citizen/Cross border commuter (if applicable):

      • Full-time PhD students

      • Visiting PhD students/academics

      • Employees (researchers, lecturers on fixed term contract, fellowship)

      • Family member

  • Define the topics the checklist should cover (entry regulation & visa, health insurance arrangement, planning a housing, travel arrangement, institutional system/database access, education recognition, bringing family members with you - entry conditions for them, ways for looking for a job for a spouse, schools/pre-school facilities, bringing pets) 

  • Define individual steps to be described.

  • Organise the suggested steps according their priority.

  • Phase in individual steps according to the relevant timeframes from the pre-arrival perspective (e.g.):

    • 12-7 months 

    • 6-4 months

    • 3 months

    • 1 month

    • 1 week 

    • Upon arrival (Checklist - coming to....[city/town/region/HEI] 

Phase 2: Designing the checklist

  • Describe each step within each phase in detail. The description of individual steps and corresponding instructions should be clear, compact and easy to navigate for the respective target groups.

  • Group related steps by topic/target group.

  • Indicate clearly the target group concerned. You can use different colour background to easily highlight the step(s) applicable only for specific target group.

  • Stress out that some of those preparations may take more time, recommend to set aside sufficient time for them.

  • Include references and contact details to the departments, personnel in charge.

  • Pay attention to the visual layout of the checklist.

  • You can include 2 checkboxes (applicable; done) next to each described step to imitate the "to-do list": Those checkboxes can be gradually ticked when each suggested and applicable step/procedure is completed.

Phase 3: Validation

Validate the designed checklist with your colleagues and several representatives of the respective target groups.

Cost of practice setup
Time required for practice setup
Personnel effort required for practice setup
Actors involved in practice setup
  • HR Department
  • IRO/welcome centre
  • Research office
  • Project management office
  • Legal department
  • Dormitory/accommodation facility
  • IT support department
  • Study department
Partners involved in practice setup
  • Municipality
  • Embassy
  • Real estate agent
  • EURAXESS centre
  • Immigration office
  • IOM migration information centre
  • Eures office
  • Other HEI/research organisation in city/region
  • Employer (with high demand of international staff)
  • Employers association
  • Ministry of Foreign Affairs
  • Ministry of Education/Science/Research
Indicators for evaluating progress/quality of practice setup
  • Procedures or bylaws are defined or updated
Description of collaboration

Internal Actors:

@IRO/welcome centre -  this centre can be responsible for preparing a checklist for international visiting PhD students, academics, and their families on topics such as entry regulations, visa, housing and travel health insurance (for non-EU incoming internationals)/health insurance (for EU incoming internationals)/public health insurance (international PhDs/academic pursuing their study/research/teaching within an international programme), family members.

@Study department - in cooperation with IRO/welcome centre can prepare a checklist for full-degree PhD students focusing on documents on diploma/education recognition procedure, PhD studies admission conditions & procedure.

@HR department - in cooperation with the legal department can prepare a checklist for international academics hired on the basis of an employment contract, practical steps regarding social security, health insurance, tax residence.

@IT support department - preparation of the access to the institutional systems

External collaborators:

@EURAXESS centre  - can serve as a peer reviewer of the described steps covering typical EURAXESS topics (visa&entry procedure, health insurance, etc.)

@Municipality - can offer various city discounts upon registration (public transport, city card for discounts to museums, galleries, events), can take over the coordination role in checklists related to arriving in the city/region

@Other HEI/research organisation in city/region - it makes sense to join forces in establishing unified procedures with other HEIs/RPOs in the same city/region as majority of duties will be the same/or very similar. The landing page for all necessary infromation on arrivals for academics/PhD students to the country/city can be shared and relevant HEIs,/RPOs can be promoted there..

@Embassy, Immigration office, IOM migration information centre, Ministry of Foreign Affairs - websites and personal consultations can provide guidance in practical steps related to visa and residence procedures

@Real estate agent - can help in detailed procedures related to renting accommodation facilities.

@Eures office, Employers and their associations - can be referred to in case of spouses looking for job

Practice delivery

  • Publish the checklist on the institution's website in the visible place.

  • Ensure the checklist clearly indicates individual target groups.

  • Include links to registration for various services/institutional systems.

  • Update the checklist regularly (ideally, once a year or anytime when required by the new circumstances)..

  • The checklist can have a form of an online app with interactive functionalities - checkboxes.

  • Promote the checklist across the organization´s departments and management.

  • Promote the available checklists in PR materials aiming at attracting international PhD students/researchers/other academics.

Cost of practice delivery
Time required for practice delivery
Personnel effort required for practice delivery
Actors involved in practice delivery
  • HR Department
  • IRO/welcome centre
  • Study department
  • IT support department
  • PR department
  • Communications and Marketing
Partners involved in practice delivery
  • EURAXESS centre
  • Municipality
Indicators for evaluating progress/quality of practice delivery
  • Number of researchers affected
  • Number of page visitors
Description of collaboration

@EURAXESS centre - if it is not part of the organisation, it could share experience, good/bad practice and provide advice and support in delivery.

@Municipality - can promote the relevant institutional pages.


Examples of practice

The checklist for incoming internationals at University of Turku

The checklist is intended for new staff members, doctoral candidates, or visiting researchers coming from abroad for taking the necessary steps when preparing to move to Finland and get started. It covers:

  • residence permit
  • housing 
  • insurance
  • family members
  • civil registration for Finland
Find out more

Checklist before Arrival to the Humboldt University in Berlin

Overview of the key points international PhD students and academics should take care of before they arrive in the host country/institution.

Find out more