UMD: A Globally Connected University

Arrival in US: Customs & I-94

Arrival in US: Customs & I-94


F-1 or J-1 students may not enter the U.S. earlier than 30 days prior to the start date on your I-20 or DS-2019 form.  We recommend arriving at least one week before classes begin so you have time to prepare. 

Please review this link for current travel updates. 


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


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 (If you are a citizen of Canada or Bermuda, no F-1 visa is required). 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) here 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 may 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.

Every individual (including U.S. citizens) are subject to questioning through Primary Inspection at a U.S. port of entry. At primary inspection, a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will ask for your visa documents. They may ask questions about your primary purpose of your visit, where you will be residing, or other questions to determine your eligibility  to enter the U.S. If the officer cannot determine your eligibility to enter the US or additional information is required, you may be directed for additional questioning at a “secondary inspection” area.

Secondary inspection allows inspectors to conduct additional questioning in order to verify information without causing delays for other arriving passengers. In Secondary Inspection, you may be advised that you are not able to make any phone calls without permission of the CBP officer, please follow their directions. If you are asked by the officer for contact information for the school, please have them call our office (or you may do so, if permitted by CBP) at 301-314-7740 during normal business hours (Mondays-Fridays, 8:30am-4:30pm EST). If it is after our normal business hours, they may contact UMD Campus Police at 301-405-3555 and UMPD will notify ISSS staff to return the call at the number you or the CBP officer provides.

Being referred to Secondary Inspection does not mean that you have done anything wrong. You should  be prepared to answer questions about your intended major/program of study, employment history, post-graduation plans, or other information. You do have rights at the port of entry and we would encourage you to read more about your rights here. Finally, please note that wait times at Secondary Inspection can take some time. There is no way to expedite processing at Secondary Inspection, so it is advised to remain patient and calm. You may request (though it may not be granted) that CBP assist you in contacting anyone who may be waiting for you at the airport.

If you arrive at a U.S. port of entry and do not have all your signed required documents, have not paid the I-901 SEVIS Fee on your current Form I-20/DS2019, or have a Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) status issue, the CBP officer may deny your entry into the United States. As an alternative, the officer has discretion to issue you a Form I-515A. This document allows you to have temporary admission into the United States for 30 days. To maintain your nonimmigrant student status, you must address your Form I-515A within the time provided to you. If you receive a form I-515A, please schedule an appointment with an ISSS advisor as soon as possible after your entry to the United States. We will assist you in your response to the I-515A document.

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