Preparing to Enter the United States

What to Expect at a U.S. Port of Entry

When planning to travel to the United States, it is important to be prepared and learn what to expect at a U.S. port of entry.  Whether this will be your first time entering, or you are returning to continue your studies, review this information to get ready:

  • Do not travel to the United States more than 30 days before the program start date listed on your I-20 or DS-2019 if you are a new student or returning student who received an I-20 or DS-2019 with a new SEVIS ID number.
  • Pack required documents. Put your passport with valid F-1 or J-1 visa and your I-20 or DS-2019 in your carry-on bag; you will not have access to your checked luggage before you pass immigration.
  • When it is your turn to meet a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer, present your passport with valid F-1 or J-1 visa and your I-20 or DS-2019. Students on post-completion or STEM OPT must also present a valid EAD card. At the time of entry to the United States, your passport must be valid for six months beyond the period of your intended stay (i.e. program end date on your I-20 or DS-2019), unless your country is exempted from this requirement.
  • Carry other recommended documents in your carry-on bag (and only present them to the CBP officer if you are asked to do so):
    • Admissions letter (for new students)
    • Complete unofficial transcript and/or enrollment verification (for continuing students)
    • SEVIS I-901 fee receipt
    • Current proof of financial support
    • Any previously-issued I-20 or DS-2019 forms
    • Proof of employment, including offer letter/contract and recent pay stubs (for students on optional practical training or academic training)
  • If you need emergency help at an airport or other U.S. point of entry, call Rutgers Global–International Student and Scholar Services during office hours (Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday from 8:30 a.m.–5:00 p.m.). Emergency contact numbers are:
    • Rutgers–New Brunswick and RBHS (New Brunswick) Students: 848-932-7015
    • Rutgers–RBHS (Newark) Students: 973-972-6138
  • To reach our staff outside of business hours, call Rutgers Police at 732-932-7211 (New Brunswick and RBHS New Brunswick) or 973-972-4491 (RBHS Newark).
  • Please keep these contact details on a printed piece of paper. You may not have access to your phone if you are sent to a secondary inspection area.
  • After re-entering the United States, remember to check your I-94 and entry stamp for F-1 or J-1 and D/S.

Additional Information

Study in the States, What to Expect when Entering the United States

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Know Before You Visit

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, Entering the U.S. - Documents required for Foreign Nationals (International Travelers)