Before you Go to the Airport
Preparing for a successful entry begins before you even leave your home. Ensure that you have gathered the following important paperwork (don’t leave it behind!), and pack it in your carry-on luggage for easy access:
- Original Form I-20 or DS-2019 (make sure you have signed it!)
- Acceptance Letter from Northeastern University
- Proof of Funding (generally the financial documents you provided in your I-20/DS-2019 application)
- Proof of SEVIS Fee Payment (I-901 Fee Receipt)
- Valid passport (six months into the future from the date of your arrival)
- F-1/J-1 Visa Stamp
When you are in the airport, you will first go through Primary Inspection. This is where a Customs & Border Protection (CBP) officer will review your documents to determine if you may enter the U.S. They may also ask you some basic questions. Provide truthful answers and ask for clarification if needed. Some items to note:
- Currency: if you/the family members you are travelling with currency amounting to more than $10,000, you must fill out an additional form to declare this. More information can be found here
- Food items: there are restrictions on certain food and agricultural items that are allowed into the US. Please reference the CBP website for more details
Generally, this step should not last more than a few minutes. If everything is in order, you may receive an entry stamp in your passport and you can proceed to collect any checked luggage. n most cases, the officer notes “D/S” (Duration of Status) on your passport pages(note that some airports no longer provide a stamp). This means you are allowed to stay in the U.S. for the length of time indicated on your I-20, provided that you maintain full-time enrollment and a valid F-1 visa status. Ensure your passport is properly stamped before exiting the immigration inspection area. Do not enter the U.S. in visitor status (B-1/B-2, WT, or WB). This status does not permit full-time study in the U.S.
If the officer has additional questions, you may be directed to Secondary Inspection.
Secondary Inspection (also called Deferred Inspection) allows a CBP officer more time to ask you additional questions and gather information to determine if you may be allowed entry. It is not a punishment, and does not mean that you will be denied entry.
The officer may ask you additional questions, or try to reach out to Northeastern to confirm your status. The following contact information may be helpful for you and the officer:
International Safety Office:*
*Note that this office is open even outside of normal business hours
Office of Global Services:
Please see our Contact page for operations hours.
Most importantly, ensure that you cooperate with the officer as much as possible so as not to create further difficulties. More information on Secondary Inspection can be found here.
Your I-94 Record
Once you have successfully cleared inspection and entered the US, you should take steps to retrieve your electronic I-94 record. Your I-94 is an admissions record that contains information about your most recent entry to the US. It is issued to everyone who enters the US, and is updated with each entry you make. It contains your basic biographical information, as well as information about your visa status and how long you are allowed to remain in the US.
You can retrieve your I-94 record here. Note that it may take a few days after your entry for the record to populate. Review your record for accuracy. Two fields you may be unfamiliar with are “Class of Admission” and “Admit Until Date.” These fields should be filled out as follows:
- Class of Admission: matches what is listed on your visa stamp
- Admit Until Date: D/S (NOTE: this stands for “Duration of Status”)
If anything looks incorrect on your I-94 record, please visit this page for more information on how to request a correction.
The CBP officer may issue you a Form I-515A if you are missing paperwork, or if they are not able to verify your status. This form allows you temporary entrance into the US for up to 30 days, during which time you must collect and submit the necessary evidence to the government to be able to remain in the US for the duration of your F-1 status (not just 30 days).
If you receive a Form I-515A, the Office of Global Services (OGS) is happy to provide guidance with your response to the government. Please complete the Request to Comply with I-515A e-form to notify us so that we may best assist.
Note that an I-515A should not have any negative impact on your status as long as you respond in a timely manner. More information on the form I-515A can be found here.