Once you have received your visa from the US Department of State, you are able to come to the United States and request permission to enter. Please be aware that your visa only allows you to apply for entry into the USA. It does not guarantee your admission into the USA . However, if you are prepared and all of your papers are in order you should not have any problems.
The flight attendants on your airplane will give you some immigration and customs documents to complete prior to your arrival to the United States . One of the forms will be Form I-94 (Arrival-Departure Record). The Form I-94 is rectangular in shape and WHITE in color. It will have a computer generated "Admission Number" on the top and will ask you for some basic demographic information (name, country of citizenship, passport number, etc.). You need to fill this in very carefully, so that the information on your I-94 exactly matches the information on your passport and Form I-20 or DS-2019. Instructions for completing this form are available from US Immigration and Customs Enforcement at http://www.ice.gov/sevis/faqs/data_integrity.htm#_Toc133204787 .
Upon your arrival into the USA , you will go through an Immigration and Customs checkpoint. It is here that you will use your visa to request permission to enter and stay in the United States . It is important that you have all of your papers in order at this point to show the Immigration Inspector. You should present the following items to the Immigration Inspector:
- Passport with your valid visa
- Form I-20 - all 3 pages (for F-1 students only)
- Form DS-2019 both pages (for J-1 students only)
- Form I-94 (the white document you completed on the airplane)
- Customs Documents (given to you on the airplane)
- Financial Support Documentation (just have this with you in case the Immigration Officials ask to see it)
The Immigration Inspector will review all of your paperwork and may ask you some questions like "What college will you be attending?" or "What do you plan to study?" Do not be alarmed by these questions - the inspector is only trying to make sure that your answers match the information given on your paperwork. If everything is in order, the following things should happen:
- The Immigration Inspector will stamp your passport
- If you are a F-1 student, the Inspector will stamp the first page of your I-20 and return it to you
- If you are a J-1 student, the Inspector will stamp your DS-2019 and return it to you
- The Inspector will stamp your Form I-94, returning the small bottom portion to you. DO NOT LOSE THIS CARD! Once you are in the United States the Form I-94 is MORE IMPORTANT than your visa. This is the piece of paper that shows you entered the US legally, and grants you permission to remain in the United States for the duration of your studies
- The stamp on your I-94 should include this notation, "F-1 D/S" or "J-1 D/S". We will go over what this means during orientation. If it does not have this notation, please inform the Coordinator of International Enrollment as soon as you arrive on campus.
If you are missing any of the documents necessary for entrance, the Immigration Inspector has the ability to deny your entrance into the United States . However, this is not common practice. Instead, he or she will follow all of the steps listed above with the following exception:
- You will be granted permission to enter the USA for only 30 days. The stamp notation will read, "F-1 or J-1 with a DATE 30 days after the day of your arrival"
If this happens to you, DO NOT PANIC. Just make sure that you let the Coordinator of International Enrollment know as soon as you arrive on campus so that we can take care of it.
Once you go through the Immigration check point, you will be asked to retrieve your luggage and proceed through Customs. You may be asked to open your suitcases. You should not be carrying any meat or plant products with you.
Once you have passed through these check points, you will continue on your way to your final destination!
For more information on the process of entering, visit the US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement website for international students: http://www.ice.gov/sevis/students/index.htm