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Planning Your Arrival

Tips for a Smooth Arrival

1) 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). Read our New Arrivals Guide (pdf) for more information.

2) Hand Carry Important 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 and 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 or DS-2019 for J-1 visitor

    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

3) Complete Your Entry Paperwork

If Arriving By Air: Flight attendants will distribute Customs Declaration Forms (CF-6059) and Arrival Departure Record Form (I-94). These must be completed prior to landing. Play close attention on how to complete this paperwork. Be sure to print your information clearly and that it is consistent with how it is listed in your passport and visa document (Form I-20 for F-1 status or Form DS-2019 for J-1 status).

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) to be filled out upon your 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 final destination. It is important that you tell the CBP Officer that you will be a student, or a visiting scholar. Be prepared to include the name and address of the school program where you will enroll/participate.

Once your inspection is successfully completed, the inspecting officer will:

  • Stamp your SEVIS Form for duration of status (“D/S”) for F and J visa holders
  • Stamp the Arrival-Departure Record Form (I-94) and staple it in the passport (I-94 is a small white card). 
Following Admission into the United States

Students and scholars should report to their school within 30 days of the date that appears on # 5 for the SEVIS Form I-20 for the F-1 visitors and the date listed on #3 of the SEVIS Form DS-2019 for J-1 visitors. You are not permitted to enter the U.S. earlier than the 30-days prior to the dates listed above. You are also not allowed to enter any later the arrival dates listed on the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019.

Additional Information

Secondary Inspection Requirements
If the CBP officer at the port of entry cannot initially verify your information 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 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 contact the International Students & Scholars Office at UMass Lowell within your first week in the U.S. We will review your visa documentation to ensure that you entered in proper status.

All nonimmigrant visitors holding visas (regardless of race, national origin, or religion) participate in the US-VISIT program, a comprehensive registration system tracking entries to and exits from the United States.

National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS)
Some individuals may be asked to provide additional information under the National Security Entry-Exit Registration System (NSEERS). A packet of information will be available at the port of entry explaining the registration procedure.