Port of Entry

What a Student or Exchange Visitor can Expect upon Arrival at a US Port of Entry

If you are an initial student or exchange visitor entering to attend school for the first time, or if you are transferring to a new school or program with an initial I-20 or DS-2019 number, you cannot enter the United States more than 30 days before the program start date indicated on your I-20/DS-2019.

Before leaving your country, confirm that your passport and 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 entry. We strongly recommend that you make a couple of photocopies of all your immigration documents—leave one copy at home and bring an extra copy with you.

When you travel, you should carry some specific documents with you. Do not put them in your checked baggage! Here are the documents you should carry with you:

  • Passport (including attached envelope of immigration documents)
  • SEVIS Form I-20 or DS-2019
  • Evidence of financial resources

In addition, SEVP recommends that you also carry the following:

  • Admission Letter
  • Evidence of Student/Exchange Visitor status (recent tuition receipts, transcripts), if you are a transfer student
  • SEVIS Fee Receipt
  • Name and contact information for Designated School Official at your intended school or program (There are multiple DSOs at IU South Bend; please call the main office line at 574-520-4419)
  • Writing instrument (pen)

If you are traveling by aircraft, the flight attendants on board will distribute a Customs Declaration Form for immigration before you land at your initial point of entry in the United States. Complete this form while you are on the aircraft and submit it to the appropriate Customs and Border Protection Officer upon your arrival. 

Upon arrival at the port of entry, proceed to the terminal area for arriving passengers for inspection at one of the Department of Homeland Security stations. As you approach the inspection station, have your passport, SEVIS Form I-20 or DS-2019 available for presentation to the Customs and Border Protection Officer.

If you are entering through a land or designated sea port (rather than by air), the Customs and Border Protection Officer will provide the necessary Customs Declaration Form at the port of entry. If you do not understand a form, ask the Customs and Border Protection Officer for assistance. It is important that you tell the Custom and Border Protection Officer that you will be a student or exchange visitor. Be prepared to include the name and address of the school or exchange visitor program where you will enroll/participate.

Once your inspection is complete, the inspecting officer will:

  • Stamp your passport for duration of status for F and J visa holders (Before leaving the inspection area, please check that your passport bears this stamp with the appropriate visa status and dates). The notation D/S (for duration of status) should appear under the visa status on the stamp.)
  • Return all the forms that were reviewed  at this time

The I-94 Arrival/Departure Form

  • F-1 and J-1 students and their dependents are issued an I-94 Arrival/Departure Record. Formerly this document was issued as a small, white paper card at all ports of entry. Currently the I-94 is issued on paper only in certain circumstances.
  • F-1 and J-1 students and their dependents arriving for the first time to U.S. airports and sea ports will be issued an I-94 electronically at time of entry. Students are encouraged to print out a copy of the I-94 record at one of the kiosks available after leaving the inspection area or before attending International Student Orientation by linking to www.cbp.gov/I94.


If your information cannot be automatically verified by the inspector or you do not have all of the required documentation, you may be directed 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.

In case your admission/participation needs to be verified, we strongly advise that you have readily available the phone number of our office or the person responsible for your J-1 Exchange Visitor Program. If you arrive during regular business hours, someone from our office will be able to help you immediately. If you arrive during non-business hours, you may have to wait until the following business day for assistance.

Failure to provide proper documentation and to comply with entry/exit procedures is cause to refuse the student or exchange visitor admission into the United States. In limited circumstances, if a student or exchange visitor 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 into the United States and requires the student or exchange visitor to take immediate action to submit proper documentation. Noncompliance with the directions contained on these forms may result in denied re-entry. If you receive a Form I-515A, report to the Office of International Student Services as soon as possible!


On January 5, 2004, US-VISIT, a comprehensive entry-exit registration system was implemented at all international airports throughout the United States, pre-clearance inspection facilities and designated seaports servicing cruise ships. All nonimmigrant visitors holding visas (including students and exchange visitors) will participate in the program that involves obtaining a scan of two index fingerprints and a digital photograph. Race, national origin, and religion are not factors in the US-VISIT program, as it applies to nonimmigrant visa holders. For more information visit: www.dhs.gov/us-visit.

If you have any questions, please contact the Office of International Student Services. We look forward to meeting you soon!