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Student entering the United States.

Back to School: Entry into the United States

August 20, 2013

As the start of the school year nears, you should begin preparing for your entry into the United States. Whether it is your first time coming to the United States or you are returning for another year of school, it is good to review the important documents you must bring with you when you travel back to school.

Make sure you have the following items up-to-date, accurate and easily accessible when you arrive at the port of entry in the United States:

  • A valid passport
  • A valid visa, if applicable
  • A signed Form I-20,“Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Student Status,” for an F or M nonimmigrant
  • Proof of financial support (if you had a visa interview, bring whatever information you provided to the U.S. Embassy or Consulate)

If you forget any of these documents or have missing information, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials may issue you a Form I-515A, “Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor.” This form allows you to enter the United States, but only for 30 days. Within those 30 days, you must submit the missing documentation to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program I-515A Processing Team. If you do not send in your documents on time, you will be out of your nonimmigrant status and may be unable to continue to study in the United States.

While not required, you should consider bringing the following documents with you:

  • Evidence of acceptance by your school, such as recent tuition receipts or an acceptance letter
  • Paper receipt for payment of your I-901 SEVIS fee
  • Name and contact information for your designated school official (DSO), including a 24-hour emergency contact telephone number at the school

If you have any questions about traveling back to the United States, or if you forget documentation and CBP issues you a Form I-515A, contact your DSO for help.

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