Arriving in the United States should be a smooth experience if you have all of your documents with you. You cannot arrive more than 30 days before your program start date. When traveling, always hand-carry all of your documents (such as your passport, Form I-20 and Form I-94). Do not pack any documents in your checked baggage. Once you arrive, remember to contact your designated school official as soon as possible.
Before you leave your home country, take time to double-check that you have gathered all the documents listed below for your travel to the United States.
To learn more about required U.S. entry documents, especially if you are on an F-1 or M-1 visa.
Certificate of eligibility
Confirm you have the I-20 or DS-2019 issued by the university you will be attending. Check that this document has been signed by the Designated School Official (DSO), that your name is spelled the same as it is in your passport, and that your birthdate is correct.
Passport and nonimmigrant visa
Ensure that your passport is current before travel. Note that citizens of some countries are required to have at least six months validity remaining on their passport before their entry into the United States. Hand-carry your passport and certificate of eligibility (I-20 or DS-2019) with you at all times during your travel.
Have the name and phone number of your campus contact, in case you need to call him/her upon arrival in the United States. Have phone numbers on hand to contact family or friends at home if you become stuck in transit, etc. When arriving in the United States, calling cards can be purchased at most convenience stores and are recommended for new students who may not have a mobile phone or other means of communication for the first few days.
Birth certificate and marriage certificate
Be sure to obtain notarized translations of these certificates if they are not in English if you are traveling with your spouse or child. Note that your spouse and child must also have their own student or exchange visa and certificate of eligibility.
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