Entering the U.S.

International Students
Entering the U.S.

Once you have obtained the F-1 stamp in your passport, you are eligible to enter the U.S. at a port of entry. The earliest you may arrive in the U.S. is 30 days prior to the Program Start Date on your I-20.

What to Expect at the Port of Entry

The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will examine your passport (including your visa stamp), Form I-20 and supporting documents. The CBP officer will enter the required information into a database, which will create an electronic record of your arrival in the U.S. This electronic record is called an I-94 (arrival record) and should be printed out each time you enter the U.S. You may retrieve your I-94 from the CBP website. Those who arrive through land ports receive a paper Form I-94A which may be stapled in your passport by the CBP officer. Please keep all I-94/I-94As as they are also utilized in obtaining employment authorization, obtaining a social security number, and/or a North Carolina Driver’s License. You should bring your I-94/I-94A to your check in appointment with one of the international advisors. 

Document Storage During Travel Recommendations

Do not store your immigration documents and supporting papers in checked luggage. Keep them securely in a carry-on bag. You should also keep the following documents with your immigration papers:

  • School transcripts
  • If applicable, marriage certificate and birth certificates for your child(ren) 

Secondary Inspections

After reviewing all of your immigration papers, CBP may require additional information before admitting you into the U.S. This review process is called secondary inspection. At the conclusion of the review, the CBP officer will admit you into the U.S. When scheduling flights, please allow sufficient time to clear customs in the event you have to go to secondary inspection.

Form I-515A

In the event you forget your I-20, the CBP officer may issue you form I-515A – Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor. This form grants you temporary entry of 30 days in order to supply the required documentation. If you receive this form at the port of entry, please contact one of the international advisors for assistance as soon as you arrive on campus.

Entry Denied

In the event you are denied entry by an CBP officer, be sure to obtain the denial reason in writing so one of the international advisors may properly assist you.