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STEP 6: Travel & Arrive in the US

Once you have received your student Visa, you should anticipate arriving in the United States within thirty days prior to the first day of classes. Item #5 on your Certificate of Eligibility (SEVIS I-20) specifically states the date by which you must arrive within the US and report to your International Student Advisor.

Expect to go through both immigration and customs inspection at the U.S. port of entry. You may also be required to go through a pre-inspection procedure at certain airports abroad. At the immigration booth, present your passport, your  SEVIS I-20, your proof of SEVIS fee payment, and your completed I-94 arrival/departure card (if the card was distributed on the airplane). Expect to have your index fingers scanned for fingerprinting purposes and a digital photograph taken, as required by U.S. federal regulations.

Upon arrival to the inspection area, you will speak with an Immigration Inspector, show your passport, your SEVIS I-20, your SEVIS I-20 fee receipt and your completed I-94 Departure Record.

The inspector will:

  • Place a red stamp, on page 1 of your SEVIS I-20 with the current date and the notation “F-1 D/S”.  This will also appear on the white I-94 card.
  • Give you the SEVIS I-20 and staple the I-94 “Departure” record into your passport opposite the F-1 Visa page.

Note: If you notice that the inspector does not do all of these things, please bring this to his/ her attention, or report it to a supervisor at the port of entry.   Make sure you pay attention to ensure all steps are done properly.

DO NOT alter anything on another school's SEVIS I-20 form, as that is considered to be a fraudulent entry by the U.S. Immigration authorities.

DO NOT attempt to enter the United States on a visitor/tourist Visa (B-2) unless it is designated "Prospective Student" by a consular officer. The U.S. Immigration Service rarely authorizes a change of status from B-2 to F-1, and you will be prevented from enrolling in school until your change of status application is approved, which could take several months.

DO NOT attempt to enter the United States under the Visa waiver program, available to citizens from nearly 30 countries throughout the world. The waiver program is designed for tourists only, and attending school under the waiver program is a clear violation of U.S. immigration law.

Your SEVIS I-20, passport and Form I-94 are legal documents and must be kept in a safe place.  It is wise to make photocopies of them in case they are lost or stolen or scan them to your computer and email it to yourself.  Make sure that you report to your International Student Advisor (Grace Prescod) with these documents as soon as possible.

Note:   Never throw away SEVIS I-20, even if you transfer schools.  It is a legal record of your stay in the US as an F-1 student.