Travel Tuesday: Prepare for the Port of Entry with U.S. Customs and Border Protection
With final exams and planning for vacations, the holiday season is a hectic and exciting time. Studying and packing are important, but as an F or M student you must also prepare your documents for your return to the United States. Follow our blog every Tuesday in December for travel tips and information.
Every F and M student who comes to the United States first must talk to a U.S. Customs and Protection (CBP) officer after arriving at the port of entry. A CBP officer determines if you can enter the United States by verifying your information and your purpose for your visit.
When you arrive, you will meet with a CBP officer for primary inspection. The officer will ask you questions, verify your documents, and decide whether to grant you entry. Some questions might include, but are not limited to the following:
- Why and for how long are you coming to the United States
- Where you will stay
- Can you financially support yourself while here
- Do the documents you present match the purpose and intent of your visit
These are important questions to answer accurately, so have this information prepared ahead of time. The best way to prepare is to have the information either from your school or from your visa appointment with the Department of State. You also should hand-carry your Form I-20, “Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant Status,” proof of financial support, your F or M student visa and contact information for your designated school official (DSO).
A CBP officer who cannot verify your information may refer you to secondary inspection– a more detailed process where the CBP officer can conduct additional research without delaying other travelers. A CBP officer who cannot verify information after secondary inspection may either deny your admission into the United States or issue you a Form I-515A, “Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor.”
If CBP denies you admission, you must immediately depart the United States. If CBP issues you a Form I-515A, this form will allow you temporary entry into the United States. You have 30 days to obtain and submit proper documentation to the Student and Exchange Visitor Program. If you do not submit your documents within 30 days, you will no longer have permission to be in and must leave the United States.
For more information on CBP, their role in the F and M student process, and tips for preparing to enter the United States, read our Here to Help post.