Guidebook / Travel

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Whether you are planning your first trip to the US or you are a returning student, it is very important to review the most up-to-date information concerning US entry requirements. Please review the following information carefully and contact the Office of International Programs if you have any questions.

Travel Dates

New F-1 students are eligible to enter the US up to 30 days before the program start date on your I-20. To confirm your timeline, check the ‘Earliest Admission Date’ on page 1 of your I-20. Continuing F-1 students do not have this entry restriction.

Documents to Carry

Plan to carry the following documents on your person or in your carry-on luggage and not in your checked baggage:

  • Passport valid for at least six months into the future
  • Unexpired F-1 Visa (unless citizen of Canada or Bermuda)
  • Unexpired I-20 with current travel signature (DSO signature on page 2 is not older than 1 year) make sure you are carrying the printout of your I-20, not a copy on an electronic device
  • Recommended for new students: Meredith Admission letter, I-901 SEVIS fee receipt, financial support documentation
  • Recommended for returning students: Unofficial transcript (confirming full-time enrollment) and financial support documentation

COVID-19 Information

As of 12:01 am EDT May 12, 2023, noncitizen nonimmigrant air passengers no longer need to show proof of being fully vaccinated with an accepted COVID-19 vaccine to board a flight to the United States. See the CDC travel page for more information.

What to Expect at the US Port of Entry

The Port of Entry (POE) is the first place you land in the United States and is where you will encounter the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). CBP is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and is the government agency that controls admission to the United States.

Meet with an officer who will review your documents and ask a few questions regarding the purpose of your visit to the US (to be a student). Customs officers may also ask to inspect your electronic devices (including social media accounts). You should comply with these requests, so do not carry anything that you do not want inspected. If an officer determines you require additional screening, you may be asked to go to an interview area called Secondary Inspection. This is not uncommon and not cause for alarm.  However, Secondary Inspection can take some time, so we recommend keeping this in mind when planning layover time between flights.

Contact OIP if needed. Should you encounter any questions or challenges, you can ask the CBP officer to call OIP at +1 919-760-8397 during regular office hours (Monday-Friday 8am to 5pm EDT). After hours, please contact Meredith’s Campus Police at +1 919 760 8888 and they will get in touch with an OIP staff member. 

Check your I-94. Be sure to check your new I-94 to make sure Customs recorded your entry correctly (Admit Until Date: D/S and Class of Admission: F-1). Find a mistake or have trouble locating your new I-94? Contact OIP for assistance.

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