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Traveling to the United States on an F-1 VISA

Advance Preparation Prior to Entry

Careful planning and preparation by students can ensure that any delays are minimal. If you are an F-1 student, here are some of the things you should know/do:

  • Before leaving your country, confirm that your passport and nonimmigrant visa are still valid for entry into the United States. The passport should be valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected stay.
  • Check to see that your visa accurately reflects your correct visa classification.
  • If the visa states the name of the institution you will attend, verify that this information is accurate as well. If you find any discrepancies visit the U.S. Embassy or Consulate to obtain a new visa.
  • Students traveling to the U.S. for the first time as an F-1 student may only be admitted up to 30 days prior to the program start date.
  • When you receive your visa at the embassy or consulate in your country, the consular office will seal your immigration documents in an envelope and attach it to your passport. You should not open the envelope! The Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer at the U.S. port-of-entry will open the envelope.
  • When you travel, you should carry some specific documents on your person. Do not check them in your baggage! If your baggage is lost or delayed, you will not be able to show the documents to the Customs and Border Protection Officer and, as a result, may not be able to enter the United States.

Documents you should carry on your person:

  • Passport (including attached envelope of immigration documents) with visa.
  • SEVIS Form I-20. Internet Receipt for payment of SEVIS fee (I-901 receipt), or Form I-797 verifying SEVIS Fee payment.
  • Evidence of financial resources.

In addition, it is recommended that you also carry the following:

  • Name and contact information for your Designated School Official (DSO) at Macomb.
  • Writing instrument (pen).

You will need an arrival/departure record from Customs and Border Protection—Form I-94. Upon your arrival by aircraft or sea, you must wait 10-14 business days before you may retrieve your I-94 record online.  Please print this document for your records.  If you arrive via a land border or have a certain visa class, you will still receive a paper version of the Form I-94.  A paper version may also be requested during the inspection process, if you prefer. 

Upon arrival at the port of entry, proceed to the terminal area for arriving passengers for inspection. As you approach the inspection station, make sure that you have: Passport, SEVIS Form I-20, and CF-6059 Customs Declaration Form available for presentation to the CBP Officer. The officer will stamp the travel document with the admission date, the class of admission and the end date to which the traveler is admitted.

Like all entering visitors, you will be asked to state the reason you wish to enter the United States. You will also be asked to provide information about your final destination. It is important that you tell the CBP Officer that you are a student/exchange visitor. Be prepared to provide Macomb’s name and address: Macomb Community College, 14500 Twelve Mile Road, Warren, MI 48088-3896.

Once your inspection is complete, the inspecting officer will:

  • Stamp your SEVIS FORM for duration of status (D/S)
  • Return the SEVIS Form I-20

Secondary Inspection Requirements

If the inspector cannot automatically verify your information or you do not have all of the required documentation, you may be escorted to an interview area known as “secondary inspection.” Secondary inspection allows inspectors to conduct additional research in order to verify information. Verifications are done apart from the primary inspection lines so that an individual case will not cause delays for other arriving passengers.

Failure to provide proper documentation and to comply with entry/exit procedures is cause to refuse the student admission into the United States. In limited circumstances, if a student is mostly, but not fully in compliance, he/she may be issued a Form I-515A: Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor. This form authorizes temporary admission for 30 days into the United States and requires the student to take immediate action to submit proper documentation.