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Enter the U.S.

Your bags are packed, you have a visa stamp in your passport, and you’re ready to travel to Ithaca! Be sure to schedule your arrival no sooner than 30 days before the program start date on your I-20 or DS-2019.

Here’s what you need to do when entering the United States as an F-1 or J-1 student.

  1. Gather Docs

  2. Meet Officer
  3. Be Prepared
  4. Receive Stamp

1 Gather your documents.

Have these documents ready to show the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer at a U.S. port of entry:

  • Valid passport

  • Valid entry visa stamp (Canadians excepted)
  • I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) form
  • SEVIS fee receipt
  • Cornell acceptance letter
  • Proof of financial support. (Bring copies of documents mentioned on your I-20/DS-2019 funding letter or bank statements for personal funds.)
  • Proof of vaccination with the primary series of an accepted COVID-19 vaccine. Visit the following CDC pages for more information on the new travel policy and technical information about the policy's implementation.

2 Meet the CBP officer.

A Customs and Border Protection officer is the first U.S. official you will encounter when arriving at the port of entry. Part of the Department of Homeland Security, CBP controls who enters the United States. The officer makes the final decision on your admission in a particular status and determines how long you can stay based on your documents.

3 Know what to expect.

The officer will review your documents, inspect your bags, and ask you a few questions about the purpose of your travel to the United States. The officer may direct you to secondary inspection for an additional interview, if more information is needed to reach a decision.

4 Receive your passport stamp and check it carefully.

The officer will admit you to the United States and stamp your passport with:

  • date and place of arrival

  • immigration status
  • expiration of your stay in status

Your stamp should show F-1 or J-1 status and “D/S.” D/S means duration of status—until the end of the program listed on your I-20 or DS-2019, plus a grace period. Tell the officer if you find a problem.

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