Preparing to Arrive to Stevens
Once you have obtained your F-1 or J-1 visa, it is time to begin preparing your arrival to the United States to begin your program!
When booking your flight, it is important that you input your full name exactly as it appears on your passport. Your electronic I-94 record may be created using the name that appears on the airline’s flight manifest, so making sure that your passport and airline ticket match will ensure consistency in your immigration record and will help you avoid future delays when applying for documents (such as a driver’s license or Social Security Number) or benefits after your arrival.
In order to enter properly in F-1 or J-1 status, students must enter the U.S. through Customs and Border Patrol. Students should not enter the U.S. using Global Entry, since doing so will automatically place students in tourist status.
By law, F-1 and J-1 students can enter the U.S. any time during the 30-day period before the program start date indicated on the first page of the Form I-20 or Form DS-2019. If you attempt to arrive more than 30 days before the program start date, you may be refused entry into the United States. Therefore, when booking your flight, please make sure that you are scheduled to arrive no more than 30 days before your program start date. Students should arrive to the U.S. prior to the start date listed on the Form I-20. The Form I-20 is valid only for initial entry for the semester start listed. Students who are unable to arrive to Stevens by the start date listed on the I-20 should contact ISSS and the Admissions Office to defer their program start date.
You will need the following documents to enter the United States:
Passport- Your passport must be valid for at least 6 months into the future from the date of entry unless your country has a passport validity agreement with the U.S.; more information is available here.
Valid F-1/J-1 visa
I-20 or DS-2019 document signed on the first page by a Designated School Official/Alternate Responsible Officer (Stevens International Student and Scholar Services) and by you
A copy of your Admission letter from Stevens
Copies of the financial documents you provided to Stevens to receive your initial I-20 or DS-2019
If your passport needs to be valid for at least 6 months into the future from the date of entry and is not, you will either need to extend it or obtain a new passport before your departure. If your F-1/J-1 visa is in your old passport, you will carry both passports (old and new) with you when you travel.
Please make sure that you carry your documents in your carry-on luggage. Do not put these documents into your checked luggage, as you will not be able to retrieve them before you go through a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) port of entry (airport or land border crossing). Failure to produce these documents at the port of entry may result in denied entry.
In preparing for your flight, keep in mind that each airline has its own size and weight regulations, as well as fees, for both carry-on and checked baggage; please acquaint yourself with your airline’s policies and fees so that you can be sure your luggage meets the requirements before arriving at the airport. Furthermore, there are several items that you are prohibited from packing in your luggage; you will find a complete list of these items here.
Remember that your carry-on bag is the only bag you will be able to access when going through Customs if you are flying to the U.S. For this reason, you should pack all of your identification and documentation needed for immigration in your carry-on bag. While it is unusual for baggage to be lost, please consider the possibility, and pack all of your essential items in your carry-on bag, including immigration documents, credit card(s), cash, medications, phone, valuable items, Stevens' address, contact information for International Student and Scholar Services (1-201-216-5189), the address of your hotel/residence, and a map. If you are planning to take any toiletries with you, you must adhere to the TSA's 3-1-1 rule.
When packing your clothing, it is important to consider the climate in northern New Jersey; there are four distinct seasons, with temperatures ranging from very cold (0 C or below) in the winter to very hot (32 C) in the summer, with moderate temperatures in the fall and spring. You should also consider purchasing a converter for all of your electronic devices. The United States uses 110-volt electricity, while many other countries use 220-volt electricity; a converter will ensure that your devices work properly and prevent them from blowing a fuse. In addition, you will need a plug adaptor since your appliances from home will probably not fit into U.S. outlets.
Upon your arrival to the U.S., Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will stamp your passport with an I-94 entry stamp connected to an electronic I-94 record which you will later be able to access here. The stamp shows that you have been lawfully admitted to the U.S. and the date you were admitted, the immigration status under which you were admitted, and the length of time you are permitted to stay.
The I-94 stamp for F-1/J-1 students should be designated “F-1 D/S” or “J-1 D/S.” “F-1” or “J-1” refers to your nonimmigrant status, and “D/S” stands for “Duration of Status,” which means that you are admitted for the full length of time designated on your I-20/DS-2019 plus any additional time you accrue for F-1 or J-1 benefits, and the grace period following the document’s end date. Please check your I-94 stamp before leaving Customs! If it is not properly designated, you must request that a Customs officer correct this before you leave the airport. An improperly designated stamp could be problematic if you later apply for a driver’s license, Social Security Number, or the like.