International Student and Scholar Services

U.S. Customs and Border Protection

Entering the U.S. Checklist

Make a plan before approaching the U.S. Customs and Border Protection Agent. This will reduce your stress!

  • The earliest you may arrive inside of the U.S. is 30 days before your program start date listed on your I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1).
  • Do not forget to sign your I-20 or DS-2019 before you approach the immigration official!
  • Do not enter the U.S. carrying any prohibited items
  • We recommend that you present your newest I-20 or DS-2019 and passport to the immigration official when you enter the country, and also have a file with you in your carry-on luggage that contains paper copies of the following:
    • (1) all of your old I-20 and/or DS-2019 documents;
    • (2) your financial guarantee information;
    • (3) your class schedule (printed out); and
  • You should expect that immigration officials might ask you extra questions. This is a process called Secondary Inspection and is nothing to worry about.  The important thing is to be prepared with your paperwork in your carry-on luggage.
  • If they call you into secondary inspection, you might not be permitted to use your phone to retrieve information, so you should have all of your documents in paper version, and organized and ready to hand over to the official.  The easier you make their job, the faster the process will be.
  • If your immigration official wants to call the international office at the University, the number is printed on your I-20 or DS-2019.
  • Stay calm and plan for a very long day.  Bring snacks and a canteen for water so you can stay hydrated. Use the restroom and eat a snack before approaching the immigration line so that your mind is clear when answering their questions.  This will also help you be more comfortable during the secondary inspection process, if selected.