UMD: A Globally Connected University
U.S. Customs and I-94 Process
It's time to get ready to come to the United States. Are you ready?
DATE OF ARRIVAL
Don’t forget, as an F-1 or J-1 student, you may not enter the U.S. earlier than 30 days prior to the start date on your I-20 or DS-2019 form. At the latest, you should arrive in time for orientation events, most of which occur the week before classes start.
DOCUMENTS TO CARRY IN YOUR HAND LUGGAGE
As you prepare to depart your home country, make sure you pack the following in your carry-on luggage:
- Your passport, valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected stay
- Your Form I-20 if you are F-1 student or your Form DS-2019 if you are a J-1 student
- Evidence of financial resources
- Letter of admission
- Receipt for the SEVIS fee
- Phone number for International Student and Scholar Services: +001 301-314-7740
WHAT TO EXPECT AT THE U.S. BORDER
At the port-of-entry, be prepared to present your I-20/DS-2019 and open your passport to your F-1/J-1 visa for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer. The officer will look over your documents and ask you several questions about your stay in the US. He or she will electronically enter the visa status you are admitted with (F-1, J-1), the date of entry, and how long your stay in the US is valid ("admitted until date). If you arrive by plane, you may access this arrival record (called the I-94 record) at CBP.gov/I94 using your passport and travel information. The CBP officer will also give you an entry stamp in your passport. Exception: If you arrive by land, s/he will staple a stamped paper I-94 card into your passport.
Your I-94 record (and entry stamp in the passport) should say "F-1, D/S" if you are an F-1 student or "J-1, D/S" if you are a J-1 exchange visitor. Please check carefully to make sure that this is correctly noted. It is very important! If "F-1, D/S" or "J-1, D/S" is not indicated in your I-94 record, you will have to return to the airport to get it corrected. It is a good idea to save a PDF of the I-94 screenshot to your computer or phone. You will need it to upload it to your iTerp account as part of the ISSS check in process in order to report your arrival.
Note: You will receive a new I-94 record each time you enter the U.S. (replacing the previous record) so ISSS recommends you that upon each arrival, you always refer back to the CBP website to ensure you have been admitted in the correct immigration class. This is especially important for those who hold multiple valid visas. Always save an e-copy of the I-94 in your records. While in the U.S., you may sometimes be asked to show the most recent I-94 in order to document your current F-1 or J-1 status (for example to apply for a driver’s license, etc.).
Note: The electronic I-94 process has only been in operation since April 30, 2013 and is only implemented at air and sea ports of entry. If you entered the U.S. prior to this date, or by land, you may have a paper I-94 card stapled in your passport. In this case, keep the card safe – it is expensive to replace if you lose it! Meanwhile, if you depart the U.S. and return by air or sea in the future, you will receive an electronic I-94 record upon your next entry.
Some FAQs about the new computerized admission record and how it will affect entry procedures, I-9 and employment eligibility verification and applications for benefits like Social Security numbers and drivers licenses, can be found here. If you have any questions about the new I-94 system, please contact ISSS.