Your arrival as a J-1 Exchange Visitor 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
Exchange Visitors are prohibited from entering the U.S. more than
30 days in advance of their academic program’s start date, as
identified in Item 3 of the DS 2019 Form.
In addition, some sponsors of an Exchange Visitors Program may
restrict early entry to less than 30 days. Please check with your
own sponsor for specific requirements.
Always Hand-Carry Your
There are documents you 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 U.S.
- Your passport, valid for at least six months beyond the date of
your expected stay.
- Your sealed immigration 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
- If re-entering the U.S., your DS-2019 Form.
In addition, we strongly recommend that you also hand-carry the
- Evidence of financial resources.
- Your Letter of Acceptance as a participant in the Exchange
- A paper receipt for payment of your SEVIS fee, Form I-797.
- The name and contact information for your sponsoring
organization, including a 24-hour emergency contact number.
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.
As You Arrive At Your Port of
Go directly to the terminal area for arriving passengers. Have the
following documents available for presentation: your passport; the
sealed envelope that contains your DS-2019 Form; Arrival-Departure
Record Form (I-94); and Customs Declaration Form (CF-6059). 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 an Exchange Visitor, as well as the name and address of the
University in which you will enroll.
When Your Inspection is Completed
Once your inspection is successfully completed, the
inspecting officer will do the following:
- Stamp your SEVIS Form for duration of status (“D/S”) for J Visa
- Stamp the Arrival-Departure Record Form (I-94) and staple it in
Following Your Admission to the U.S.
As an Exchange Visitor, you must report to St. John’s (your
Exchange Visitor Program sponsor) within 30 days of your program’s
start date, as identified in Line 3 of your DS 2019 Form. St.
John’s will then validate your participation in the program.
If you are an Exchange Visitor in a program beginning with “G” -
as listed in Item 2 of the DS 2019 Form - and are being sponsored
for less than 30 days, you must have your sponsor validate
your participation before the end date listed in Item 3 of the DS
2019. Failure to have your participation validated will
result in an automatic invalidation of your SEVIS record.
If the CBP officer at your port of entry cannot initially verify
your information, or you lack some of the required documentation,
you may be directed to an interview area known as “Secondary
This allows inspectors to conduct extra research in order 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
Sometimes a CBP Officer needs to verify information with a
student’s sponsoring university or program. We strongly recommend
that you keep on hand the name and telephone number of your J-1
Exchange Visitor Program sponsor. In case you arrive during
non-business hours (evening, weekends, holidays), have an emergency
or non-business hour phone number available for the CBP
Failure to comply with U.S. government entry-exit procedures may
result in your being denied entry to the United States. Under
certain circumstances, the CBP officer may issue a “Notice to
Student or Exchange Visitor” Form (I-515A), which authorizes
temporary admission into the United States. Work with your school
to submit the proper documentation without delay.
U.S. - Visit
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 holding a Visa may be asked to
provide 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
For more information, visit
* U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement is the largest
investigative arm of the Department of Homeland Security.