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What to expect at U.S. port of entry for F-1 and J-1 students and scholars

Please also visit the US Department of Homeland Security's website for more information about what to expect when entering the US and US Customs & Border Protection's website for International Visitors.

Plan Your Arrival

Initial F-1 Students and J-1 Exchange Visitors are prohibited from entering the United States more than 30 days in advance of the program start date identified on your I-20 or DS 2019.

Always Carry Your 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. As a result, you may not be able to enter the United States.

  • Passport (valid for at least six months beyond the date of your entry)
  • Valid F-1 or J-1 visa
  • Valid I-20 or DS-2019 

In addition, it is strongly recommended that you also hand carry the following documentation:

  • Evidence of financial resources (financial guarantee)
  • Transcripts (for continuing students)
  • Letter of acceptance as a full-time, degree-seeking student, participant in WVU's exchange program, or invitation/offer letter for J-1 scholars
  • Paper receipt for the SEVIS fee, Form I-797
  • Name and contact information for your sponsoring organization, including a 24-hour emergency contact number. WVU's emergency number is: 304-293-9456.

Complete Your Entry Paperwork

If Arriving By Air: Flight attendants will distribute Customs Declaration Forms (CF-6059). These must be completed prior to landing.

If Arriving By Land or Sea: The CBP Officer at the port of entry will provide the necessary Customs Declaration Forms (CF-6059) to be filled out upon your arrival.

As You Arrive at the Port of Entry

Proceed to the terminal area for arriving passengers. Have the following documents available for presentation:

  • Passport
  • F-1 or J-1 visa
  • I-20 or DS-2019
  • Customs Declaration Form (CF-6059)

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 exchange visitor. Be prepared to include the name and address of the school program where you will enroll/participate.

West Virginia University 1505 University Avenue Morgantown WV, 26506

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 in order to verify information without causing delays for other arriving passengers.

The CBP officer will first attempt to verify your status by using the Student and Exchange and Visitor Information System (SEVIS). In the event that the CBP officer needs to verify your admission/participation with your sponsor we strongly recommend that you have the name and telephone number of your Program sponsor available. In the event you arrive during non-business hours (evenings, weekends, holidays), you should also have the emergency phone number.

Failure to comply with U.S. government entry-exit procedures may result in your being denied 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. Work with your program sponsor to submit proper documentation without delay if this should occur.

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

  • Sometimes stamp your passport for duration of status (“D/S”) for F and J visa holders with date and port of entry
  • Update your I-94 arrival/departure record online. Be sure to retrieve your I-94 online immediately after arrival using the information in your visa and verify that it is correct. You can access it here -

After you have been admitted into the US

Students and Exchange Visitors must report to ISSS within 30 days of the program begin date identified on your I-20 or DS 2019 to have their participation in the program activity validated. This is done via SEVIS Check-in for students. If you are a J-1 scholar, this is completed during your mandatory orientation with your immigration specialist.