What To Expect From Immigration As An International Student
Traveling to the United States as an international student can be as confusing as it is exciting. To help you prepare, here’s what you should expect and do when arriving at a U.S. Port of Entry.
Booking your flight
The earliest you can arrive in the U.S. is 30 days before your first day of classes. Book your travel accordingly.
If possible, book a direct flight. If you do need a connecting flight after you arrive in the U.S., schedule at least a two-hour window from when your first flight is scheduled to arrive and when your connecting flight departs.
And don’t forget to let us know when you’ll be arriving at Adelphi! Enter your travel details online after you have booked your flight.
Preparing for your trip
Photocopy your passport and other important documents and give a copy of each to a trusted relative at home. Pack the originals in your carry-on luggage. You’ll need quick access when you meet with a Custs and Border Protection (CBP) officer after landing.
It’s also a good idea to have the name and phone number of your designated school official. This will save a lot of time and stress if your CBP officer needs to verify any information.
During your flight
Towards the end of the flight, an attendant will hand out a Customs Declaration Form 6059B. Fill out this form on the plane. Once you land, you will need to present it to a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer.
Also, listen for announcements about where to claim your checked luggage. Make a note on a piece of paper or in your phone for later.
Immigration at the Airport
Once you land, look for signs that say “International Arrivals” or “Immigration.” If you need to use the bathroom, better to do it now since you’ll likely have to wait in line for a while.
There will be a lane specifically for non-U.S. citizens. If you’re unsure which lane to wait in, ask an officer. While in line, avoid using your phone – this is not allowed because of concerns about photography.
Wait patiently, and when it’s your turn hand your passport and immigration and customs forms to the officer. He or she will ask some questions about the purpose of your trip to the U.S. while reviewing your documents. These documents will include:
- Your passport
- Your visa: you’ll need your F-1 or M-1 visa, depending on your international study program.
- I-20 Form: your Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status comes from your school, and tells you when your program’s start date is.
- I-94 Form: your CBP officer will create your I-94 form for you and attach it to your passport. This form is very important, so keep it safe.
If you’re missing some of your paperwork, you might need to go through a secondary inspection. It’s best to make sure your paperwork is complete and accurate before your flight so you can avoid this.
The CBP officer will try to verify your information using the online Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). If that doesn’t work, it helps to have your designated school official’s name and phone number. The CBP officer can then contact this person directly, which will speed things up.
In case you’re issued a Form I-515A, or Notice to Student of Exchange Visitor, you’ll be granted temporary admission into the United States. Work with your school officials to submit the necessary documentation required by the Form I-515A to prevent any further issues.
After immigration, you’ll pick up your checked luggage and head to Customs. If you don’t have any items to declare, go to the green lane marked “Nothing to Declare.” If you do have something to declare, use the red lane marked “Goods to Declare.” After customs, recheck your baggage if you have a connecting flight or head outside if you’re at your final destination. Congratulations, you made it!
- The Study in the States guide from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security.
- How to navigate the U.S. immigration system as a student.
- Make sure you have everything in place before coming through immigration. Check out Adelphi’s Before You Arrive page to check over what you need. And while you’re there, watch our student visa videos to learn more about the process.
Have more questions about traveling to the U.S.? Don’t hesitate to contact us!