Your arrival as an F-1 student in the U.S. will be smoother if
you know what to expect. The Department of Immigration and Customs
Enforcement has prepared the following guide to ensure the quality
of your experience.
Through its “Student and Exchange Visitor Program” (SEVP), the
Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement is committed to
facilitating your stay in the U.S. as you enjoy our nation’s
academic, educational, and cultural offerings.
To enhance security without slowing legitimate travel, the
Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has instituted some changes
in U.S. entry and exit procedures. Careful planning and preparation
by international students can ensure that any delay based on these
procedures is minimal.
Plan Your Arrival
You may be refused entry into the U.S. if you attempt to arrive
more than 30 days before the academic program start date listed on
your SEVIS I-20 form.
Always Hand-Carry Your
There are documents you will need to keep with you when you arrive.
Please do not check these documents with your baggage. If your
baggage is lost or delayed, you will be unable to present the
documents at your port of entry. As a result, you may not be able
to enter the United States.
- Your passport, valid for at least six months beyond the date of
your expected stay.
- Sealed nonimmigrant documents. (When you receive your
nonimmigrant visa at a U.S. embassy or consulate, the Consular
Officer will seal your immigration documents in an envelope and
attach it to your passport. Do not open this envelope! The Customs
and Border Protection Officer at the U.S. Port of Entry will open
- Your SEVIS Form I-20.
We strongly recommended that you also hand-carry the following
- Evidence of financial resources.
- Evidence of student status, such as recent tuition receipts and
- A paper receipt for the SEVIS fee, Form I-797.
- Name and contact information for your “Designated School
Official”, including a 24-hour emergency contact number at the
For comprehensive information on procedures for traveling and
arriving in the U.S., visit
Complete Your Entry Paperwork
If you arrive by Air, flight attendants will distribute Customs
Declaration Forms (CF-6059) and Arrival Departure Record Forms
(I-94). These must be completed prior to landing.
If you arrive by land or sea, the CBP Officer at the port of
entry will provide the necessary Customs Declaration Forms
(CF-6059) and Arrival-Departure Record Forms (I-94) to be filled
out upon your arrival.
When You Arrive At Your Port of
Go directly to the terminal area for arriving passengers. Have the
following documents available for presentation: your passport;
SEVIS Form (I-20); Arrival-Departure Record Form (I-94); and
Customs Declaration Form (CF-6059). The Form I-94 should reflect
the address where you will reside, not the address of your
University or academic department.
You will be asked to state your reason for entering the U.S. You
will also be asked to provide information about your final
destination. It is important that you tell the CBP Officer that you
will be a student, along with the name and address of the
University in which you will enroll.
When Your Inspection is
Once your inspection is successfully completed, the inspecting
officer will do the following:
- Stamp your SEVIS Form for duration of status (“D/S”) for F visa
- Stamp your SEVIS Form for 30 days beyond program end date for M
- Stamp the Arrival-Departure Record Form (I-94) and staple it in
Following Your Admission Into the
You should report to St. John’s to register for your courses within
30 days of the date that appears on your SEVIS I-20 form. Failure
to do so may result in serious consequences.
If the CBP officer at your port of entry cannot initially verify
your information, or you lack some required documentation, you may
be directed to an interview area known as “Secondary
This allows inspectors to conduct extra research to verify your
information – without causing delays for other arriving passengers.
First the inspector will attempt to verify your status by using the
Student and Exchange and Visitor Information System (SEVIS).
Sometimes a CBP Officer needs to verify information with a
student’s university or program. You should keep on hand the name
and telephone number of your foreign student advisor at St. John’s.
In case you arrive during non-business hours (evening, weekends,
holidays), have an emergency or non-business hour phone number
available for the CBP officer.
Failure to comply with U.S. government entry-exit procedures may
result in your being denied entry to the U.S. Under certain
circumstances, the CBP officer may issue a “Notice to Student or
Exchange Visitor” Form (I-515A), which authorizes temporary
admission. Work with your school to submit the proper documentation
Every nonimmigrant visitor holding a Visa - regardless of
race, national origin or religion - participates in the U.S.-VISIT
program, a comprehensive registration system tracking entries to
and exits from the United States. For more information visit
National Security Entry-Exit
Registration System (NSEERS)
Some nonimmigrant visitors with a Visa may be asked to give
additional information under the National Security Entry-Exit
Registration System (NSEERS). At your port of entry you can obtain
a packet of information explaining the registration procedure.
To learn more, visit
* U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is the largest
investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.