Skip to main content

Enter the U.S.

Your bags are packed, you have a visa stamp in your passport, and you’re ready to travel to Ithaca!

If you are a J-1 exchange visitor, be sure to schedule your arrival no sooner than 30 days before the program start date on your DS-2019. If you are an H-1B, 0-1, or E-3 worker, you can arrive up to 10 days before the employment start date on your I-797.

Here’s what you need to do when entering the United States for the first time as a Cornell employee.

  1. Check Rules
  2. Gather Docs
  3. Meet Officer
  4. Be Prepared
  5. Receive Stamp

1 Understand COVID-19 travel restrictions.

Find out if you'll be allowed to enter the United States from your location. Read the current restrictions on international travel to the U.S. during the pandemic.

2 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)
  • DS-2019 (J-1), I-797 (H-1B/O-1), or ETA 9035 (E-3)
  • SEVIS fee receipt and financial documentation (J-1)

3 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.

4 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.

5 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

If you are on a J-1 visa, your stamp and I-94 should show J-1 status and “D/S.” D/S means duration of status—effective for as long as you maintain your legal J-1 status. All others should receive a specific end date. Make sure this date corresponds with the end date listed on your immigration documents. Tell the officer if you find a problem.