Traveling to the United States

Before the student travels to the U.S., he or she must inform the university, so that any necessary arrangements can be made ahead of time, such as transportation from the airport, directions to the campus, and where to check-in upon arrival. It is advisable to arrive at the airport at least two hours before the flight departure time. If the students university is in a city where there is no international airport, then the student must fly into the nearest airport obtain the customs and immigration clearance before traveling to the final destination. If the student has to change planes en route, then he or she should make sure that there is enough time to collect baggage and complete the immigration and customs formalities. It is advisable to choose a flight with at least a three hour layover. Students should remember to prepare the following items before they depart:

  • Ticket
  • Passport
  • Paperwork from the university
  • I-20 form
  • I-94 form
  • Evidence of financial resources
  • Original certificates and mark sheets
  • Medical records
  • Address and direction to the university.
  • University contact information
  • Travelers checks and U.S. dollars
  • Dress and casual clothes for all seasons: warm clothing for cold weather and light clothing for warm weather.
  • Business clothes: dark suits, button down shirts, and ties for men, and pants suits, skirts and blouses, or dresses for women.
  • Outerwear, such as coats, hats, gloves, and scarves.
  • Plenty of undergarments and socks.
  • Toiletries, such as soap, antiperspirant, shampoo, conditioner, a toothbrush, and toothpaste.
  • Personal entertainment items, such as books or music.
It is important to check in advance with the airline about the luggage requirements as it varies from each airline. Most of the airlines allow students to carry extra luggage than the allowed limit for other passengers. In general, passengers are allowed two pieces of baggage to be checked in, each of which may be upto 70 lbs (32 Kgs) and also subject to certain dimensional restrictions. Passengers are also allowed to carry one piece of hand luggage on board.

It is highly recommended to have a spare set of clothes in carry-on baggage, in case the checked-in baggage is delayed or lost upon arrival. This may happen occasionally and passengers are entitled to monetary compensation from the airline for the loss. Please contact the nearest desk of the airline concerned immediately after the loss is noticed. Always keep valuables - cash, travelers checks, passport, visa documents, airplane tickets, International Driving Permit, Original Educational Certificates - in the carry-on baggage. Do not put them in the checked-in baggage. It is also advisable to keep a copy of all the documents at home before leaving for the U.S.

Before landing, each person arriving in the U.S. must fill out the Customs Declaration Form 6059B, which is distributed on the plane. It is not required to itemize items brought to the U.S. for personal use, such as clothing or toiletries. The forms are used to declare the value of any gifts or business items that passengers have brought with them to the U.S.

Jewelry or similar articles of personal adornment valued at $300 or more and passed free of duty under the personal customs exemption and cannot be sold within three years unless duty is paid. If duty is not paid before the sale is completed, the articles will become subject to seizure. A person entering in to the U.S. may enter with professional equipments free of duty if it was owned and used abroad. This includes professional books and tools of trade, occupation, or employment.

Immigration Inspections
The Arrival Departure Record Form (I-94) is also distributed on the plane and must be completed prior to landing. The I-94 form should reflect the address where the student will reside, not the address of the school or program. On arrival at the airport, the airline personnel will show the inspection area. Passengers will queue up in an inspection line and then speak with an Immigration Inspector. Students should use the lanes marked for non-citizens.

The Immigration Inspector must determine the reason for coming to the U.S., verify the documents and check how long the non-immigrant should be allowed to initially stay in the U.S. These determinations are usually made within few minutes. If the passenger is allowed to proceed, the Inspector will stamp the passport and issue a completed I-94 form. A completed form will show the immigration classification and the last date of authorized stay in the U.S. The student will then be permitted to proceed to Customs.

The date on the I-94 is very important. Usually, this will be same date as the visa validity date, but the date on the I-94 supersedes the visa date on the visa. The visa holder is allowed to stay only for the period mentioned on the I-94. It is the students responsibility to check the date and make sure it is correct, any human errors can be corrected within minutes by the same immigration officer and it takes more time to get the correction after leaving the airport.

Students should keep the contact details of the university and address of accommodation handy. Sometimes students may need to land the nearest international airport rather than the airport closest to the university, because port of entry for international passengers is not available in all the airports. Students should be prepared to answer any questions like change of flights or the person who will be picking them up from the airport. Clear, simple, and correct answers will be enough. If a student is asked to go through a secondary inspection, he or she should not panic. The Immigration Inspector will verify documents and check about enrollment with the university. Due to very strict security checks, secondary inspections are very common.

In a secondary inspection, the Immigration Inspector will first attempt to verify the students status by using SEVIS. In the event that the Immigration Inspector needs to verify information with the students university, the student should have the necessary contact information available.

Failure to comply with U.S. government entry-exit procedures may result in being denied entry to the U.S. Under certain circumstances, the Immigration Inspector may issue a Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor Form (I-515A), which authorizes temporary admission into the U.S. If this happens, then the student must contact the International Student Office and submit the proper documentation without delay.

Transportation to the University
If the university did not arrange for pickup from the airport they might have guided the student with instruction to reach university by taxi cab. Students may contact the international student office and request for pick up if any one interested. If the distance between airport and the university is more than 50 miles students should consider taking alternate transportation instead of a taxi. Local trains or bus may be the better option. Taxis may also be used from local train or bus stations to reach the university. Fellow students help will the best option to reach the university.
Student Life
Once the student reaches the university, he or she will need to check in at the designated location. For on-campus accommodations, students must contact the universitys Housing Office before arriving and have taken care of the necessary paperwork and payments. Students who choose to live off-campus are on their own for finding a place to live. As soon as students are settled, they should become acquainted with the university. They should have a schedule of their classes and find out where each building is so that they do not get lost. They also need to purchase their textbooks from the university bookstore.International Students Office
The first and the most important task is to visit the International Students Office. Student should take their passport, I-20, I-94, and university letter to register. The office will make a photocopy of the documents and return the originals to the student. These are very important documents and students should always keep them in a safe and secure place. Having copies of all the documents in different location is highly advisable. Whenever there is a change of address, students must inform the International Students Office as well as USCIS within 10 days.

Admissions Office
It is important for students to visit the Admissions Office to verify that all of their paperwork is in order and that they are registered for classes. Students should register for classes prior to arriving at the university. Most universities allow students to register by computer over the internet.
University Identity Card
Students should get their University Identity card immediately. The card will have a photograph of the student and university ID number on it. The ID card is used for library accounts, meal plans, and attending university events.
Health Insurance
It is important that the student should have proper health insurance. They will need to submit a medical history form and a physical examination for the records of the Student Health Center. Students can sign up for health insurance prior to arriving in the U.S. through
Bank AccountsIt is convenient to open a checking account, especially if the account holder wishes to make payments by check. Most of the student checking accounts have no monthly fee. Banks also provide Automated Teller Machine (ATM) cards that allow the account holder to withdraw money at any time. All banks will accept the Travelers checks that students bring from their country. Student should be prepared to show a photo ID and the necessary documents that prove that they are a university student. Students should ask the bank about their monthly fees for services, and whether or not the bank can receive transactions from the bank in their home country.
Credit Cards
A credit card is a convenient method of payment and saves the trouble of always carrying enough cash around or carrying the checkbook everywhere. International students sometimes have problems getting approved for a credit card since they lack a credit history and are not permanent residents of the U.S. Following is a list of tips for choosing and using credit cards:
  • Look for cards with no annual fees.
  • Read the fine prints of terms and conditions for APR. Do not look for only 0% introductory offers. The lower the APR the lower the interest is.
  • Always pay your credit card payments in full.
  • Always pays the bill on time. Setup auto deduction from the Bank checking or savings account with minimum amount transfer. Late fees are very expensive and often more than the minimum monthly payment. Also late payment will reduce the credit scores significantly.
  • If the credit card was stolen, call the credit card company and inform them, so that they can stop the transaction for the credit card. File a police compliant with date time of the stolen items. Having the records in hand will help in many ways to avoid paying the bill by unauthorized transaction.