Entering U.S. as International Student

Entering U.S. as International Student

Once you have obtained the F-1 stamp in the passport, you are eligible to apply for admission into the U.S. The earliest you may arrive is no more than 30 days prior to the Program Start Date on the Form I-20.

At the port of entry, the CBP officer will examine the passport, student visa, Form I-20 and supporting documents. The CBP officer will enter information into a database that will electronically record your arrival to the U.S. This entry will create the Form I-94 (arrival record). Individuals who arrive by air or sea will need to access their Form I-94 online on the CBP website and print the I-94 to keep with your other important immigration documents. Those who arrive through land ports receive a paper Form I-94A, that the CBP officer may staple into the passport. The I-94 (or I-94A) includes biographical information, date and class of admission, and the expiration date of the authorized stay in the U.S. The I-94 is an important document used in the verification of employment authorization, application for a social security number, and application for a North Carolina driver’s license, in addition to other purposes.

When traveling to the U.S., you should have the following documents available and with you in your carry-on luggage:

  • Form I-20. Dependents (spouse and/or children) require separate forms I-for entry in F-2 dependent status
  • Confirmation of payment of the SEVIS fee
  • Passport valid at least 6 months beyond program end date of the I-20.
  • Letter of admission to UNCSA
  • Financial documents including departmental award letter, scholarship notification, bank statements and letters of financial support
  • School transcripts
  • If applicable, marriage certificate and birth certificates for children

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) may require additional information before admitting you to the U.S. Typically, additional questioning happens in “secondary inspections.”  Once the officer is satisfied that you meet the requirements for entry into the U.S. in the requested immigration status, he/she may admit you to the U.S.  Please allow sufficient time for clearing customs when arranging connecting flights to the local airport from the U.S. port of entry.

If the CBP officer is not satisfied with the documentation presented or you have forgotten your I-20, you may be either

  • denied entry and have to travel back home, or
  • may be granted temporary entry and given 30 days to supply required additional documentation. In this case, CBP will issue Form I-515A “Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor”. Students issued Form I-515A must contact the PDSO immediately for assistance.
Contact: Ronit Weingarden, International Advisor and principal designated school official, PDSO
TaWanna Archia, International Advisor, DSO