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Port of Entry

Arrival at U.S. Port of Entry

Plan Your Arrival

You may be refused entry if you attempt to arrive more than 30 days before the start date on your SEVIS I-20 form.

Carry Documents

If you put documents in your baggage and it’s lost or delayed, you won’t be able to present your documents at the port of entry. As a result, you may not be able to enter the U.S. Do not place the following in your baggage:

  • Passport
  • SEVIS form I-20
  • Evidence of financial resources
  • Receipt for the SEVIS I-901 fee, Form I-797
  • Name and contact information of school official

Expect an Inspection at the Port of Entry

You’ll go through U.S. customs and immigration for inspection* and be asked to show your passport, visa and I-20. The officer may ask questions about your studies. These questions are usually general in nature. It’s important to remain friendly, polite, patient and completely honest while going through this process. For more information, review these frequently asked questions on the U.S. Customs and Border Protection website.

*Students from countries on the U.S. Homeland Security or U.S. State Department high alert list may require additional inspection procedures. These countries are Afghanistan, Algeria, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Egypt, Eritrea, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jordan, Kuwait, Libya, Lebanon, Morocco, North Korea, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Somalia, Saudi Arabia, Sudan, Syria, Tunisia, United Arab Emirates and Yemen.

Students from other countries may also be subject to secondary inspection if the officer at the port of entry cannot initially verify your information or you do not have all the required documentation.

Make Your Customs Declarations

Prior to your arrival in the U.S. and while you’re on the plane, you’ll be given a customs declaration form to declare the amount of money and the value of items you’re bringing into the country. You may be asked to pay taxes on money or goods exceeding a certain amount.

Although the inspection at the port of entry is generally efficient, plan on at least an hour delay. Students requiring additional or special inspection procedures may want to plan for a longer inspection time. This is important if you have to make a connecting flight.

Once inspection and immigration is complete, make certain you have the following:

  • Passport
  • SEVIS I-20 unless taken by port of entry official
  • Any additional letter or documents relating to financial support, scholarships, etc.

Use Travel Safety Precautions

Be cautious if you stay overnight at a port of entry like New York, Los Angeles or Dallas. While most Americans will be helpful and honest, there’s a possibility of someone trying to take advantage of you.

If you stay overnight in the city, ask about the availability of bus or limousine service from the airport to the hotel when you make your reservation. Hotels sometimes provide free transportation. If you need a taxi, use only those clearly marked as “TAXI” with a properly identified driver. Tell the driver where you need to go and ask how much it will cost. Most drivers are familiar with the cost of traveling to area hotels.

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