Port of Entry (Customs)

What you need to know about immigration and customs

When you arrive in the United States at an airport or through a border crossing, you will need to go through immigration and customs. Here is what you need to know.

People entering the United States on an F-1 or J-1 visa are only permitted to enter 30 days before the start date on your I-20 or DS-2019 document. Do not try to enter earlier! You may be sent back home.
  • Before leaving home

    • Confirm that your passport and visa are valid for entry into the United States. Your passport should be valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected entry.

    • Check to make sure that your visa accurately reflects your correct visa classification.

    • Make photocopies of all your immigration documents. Leave one copy at home and bring an extra copy with you packed separately from your original documents.

    • Learn about items you are not allowed to bring into the United States. Avoid problems at the port-of-entry by reading about restricted items in advance. Also read the rules about plant and animal products, which includes most food items.

  • Required and Recommended Documents

    Make sure to pack your documents in your carry-on bag, not in your checked baggage. Put them in a safe pocket that is easy for you to access. Do not leave them in a visible place while you are on the plane, and do not leave them unattended.

    Carry the following documents:

    • Passport

    • I-20 or DS-2019

    • Evidence of financial resources

    • Your SEVIS fee receipt

    • Your admission letter (recommended)

    • OIA contact information (recommended)

    • Copy of your U.S. transcripts (transfer or returning students only) (recommended)

    Before you get off the plane, you will be asked to complete a Customs Declaration Form. Keep this with your other documents.

  • Immigration Inspection

    After getting off the airplane, you will go through Immigration and Customs even if you have another flight to your final destination. Have your passport and I-20 ready for inspection, and be prepared to show your other documents if needed.

    Be prepared to answer the following questions:

    • Why do you wish to enter the United States?
    • What is your final destination?
    • How long do you plan to stay in the United States?
    • What are you going to study?

    In rare cases, you may be sent to “Secondary Inspection” if the officer has further questions regarding your eligibility to enter the United States. If the officer needs to verify any information with IUPUI, they may call our office at 317-274-7000 during office hours.

    The officer will stamp your passport for entry, and you will proceed to the Customs area.

  • Customs Inspection

    At this stage you will need to collect your bags, even if you are not at your final destination. If you had items to declare on your Customs Declaration Form, then you should follow the signs to the “Items to Declare” area. Otherwise, follow the signs to the “Nothing to Declare” area. An officer will take your Customs Declaration Form. The officer has the right to inspect the contents of your bag at this time.

    After going through Customs, return your bags to be loaded onto your next flight. Welcome to the United States of America!