What to Expect at a U.S. Port of Entry
U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) governs the Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP). They are charged with facilitating your entry and monitoring your status in the U.S. while you take advantage of our nation’s academic, educational, and cultural offerings. To enhance security without slowing legitimate travel, careful planning and preparation by international students and scholars will ensure minimal processing delay.
Plan Your Arrival
You may be refused entry into the United States if you attempt to arrive more than 30 days before the program start date listed on your Form I-20 (for F-1 visitors) or Form DS-2019 (for J-1 visitors).
Always Hand-Carry Your Documents
Do not check the following documents in your baggage. If your baggage is lost or delayed, you will be unable to present the documents at your port of entry. As a result, you may not be able to enter the United States.
- Your passport, valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected stay.
- SEVIS Form I-20 (for F-1 visitors)
- SEVIS Form DS-2019 (for J-1 visitors)
In addition, it is strongly recommended that you also hand carry the following documentation:
- Evidence of financial resources.
- For new students or Visiting Scholars, your UMass Lowell Invitation Letter or Admissions Letter.
- For new students or Visiting Scholars, paper receipt of the SEVIS fee payment.
- For continuing student, evidence of student status, such as recent tuition receipts and transcripts.
For comprehensive information on procedures for traveling and arriving in the United States, visit the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s webpage on Crossing U.S. Borders.
Complete Your Entry Paperwork
If Arriving by Land or Sea: The Customs Border Patrol (CBP) Officer at the port of entry will provide the necessary Customs Declaration Forms (CF-6059) and Arrival-Departure Record Form (I-94) will be able to be accessed after arrival.
All visitors entering the United States must state their reason for wishing to enter the country. You will also be asked to provide information about your destination. It is important that you tell the CBP Officer that you will be a student. Be prepared to include the name and address of the school program where you will enroll/participate.
Starting April 30, 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Patrol (CBP) rolled out a new electronic I-94 process at air and seaports of entry. Under the new CBP process, a CBP officer will provide each admitted nonimmigrant traveler with an admission stamp on their passport. CBP will no longer issue a paper Form I-94 upon entry to U.S., with some exceptions. Learn more on the CBP website.
Following Admission into the United States
Students and scholars should report to their school within 30 days of the start date listed on your Form I-20/DS-2019. You are not permitted to enter the U.S. earlier than the 30-days prior to the start date. You are also not allowed to enter any later the arrival dates listed on the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019.
Secondary Inspection Requirements
If the CBP officer at the port of entry cannot initially verify your information or you do not have all the required documentation, you may be directed to an interview area known as “secondary inspection.” Secondary inspection allows inspectors to conduct additional research to satisfy any questions they may have.
The inspector will first attempt to verify your status by using the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS). This is an electronic database tracking system. Failure to comply with U.S. government entry-exit procedures may result in the denial of entry to the United States. Under certain circumstances, the CBP officer may issue a “Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor” Form (I-515A), which authorizes temporary admission into the United States. If you are issued a Form I-515 upon arrival, please visit our office immediately as this form will need immediate follow up.
Be sure to attend the Mandatory Immigration Clearance held by the ISSO upon your arrival. We will review your visa documentation to ensure that you entered in proper status.
Security Clearance Screening
Students from certain countries and fields of study are often subjected to a Security Clearance. This is also known as Administrative Processing.
It is helpful to have certain documents ready when applying for a new visa or visa renewal if you are from a country which may undergo additional screening or if you are in a STEM field. Most STEM fields are listed in the government’s Technology Alert List (TAL).
The following is meant to help you be prepared in case you are asked to present additional documentation. DO NOT, however, present it unless you are asked to do so. Some people may be asked to present some or all the following:
- An invitation letter from your UMass Lowell Academic Department outlining the research that you will be involved in. The U.S. Embassy wants to be sure that you will not be integrally engaged in any research that is of a sensitive nature and that you and your Academic Supervisor will follow Export Control guidelines. The letter should include your research experience and background. If you are being funded by UMass Lowell, it is helpful to mention the amount of funding and the source of funding.
- Resume, when applicable, it should include a list of publications.
- Research/Study Plan, detailing your planned studies and research while in the U.S. It should include the name and email address of your advising professor and/or the department chair.
- Official Transcripts, Students who have already been studying in the U.S. and are applying for a visa renewal may be asked to submit their official transcripts.
- Information on your Academic Advisor, Students who have been issued a Teaching Assistantship and more importantly a Research Assistantship should print their advisor’s biography web page or their CV.