Arriving in the U.S. as an International Student

Making Travel Arrangements

Arriving for International Welcome in the U.S. is an exciting adventure. Remember, you’re not allowed to enter more than 30 days before your program start date listed on your SEVIS I-20 Form or DS-2019. If you face travel or visa delays preventing you from arriving on time, get in touch with Admission Services at for further guidance.

It’s crucial not to attempt entry into the U.S. after your school start date indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019, as doing so will result in denied entry. Refer to the academic calendar for essential dates for the upcoming semester.

Entering the U.S.

Most students will likely arrive at a U.S. airport other than Phoenix Sky Harbor (PHX). In case you are bound for PHX on an international flight, do check out the international information available on the Sky Harbor website.

Upon your initial U.S. entry as a legal nonimmigrant, regardless of the port of entry, you’re required to complete certain procedures. Learn more about what to expect at a port of entry by visiting the U.S. Immigration and Customs website for detailed insights.

Visa and SEVIS I-20

For Canadian citizens, this information is not applicable. At your point of entry, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will examine your documents, including your passport, visa, and I-20. It’s crucial that your passport gets stamped by the entry port official, noting F-1 D/S or J-1 D/S (Duration of Status), date, and U.S. arrival location.

If there are any errors in the stamped date or visa classification, make sure to address this with the port of entry official. Any issues noticed after leaving the airport should be reported to the International Students and Scholars Center. If questioned by a CBP officer, always respond honestly, politely, and confidently. If needed, suggest contacting the International Students and Scholars Center at 480-727-4776 for assistance.

Additionally, you should have received an email with tips for navigating this process, as you may encounter questions to verify information. You are entitled to inquire about any issues respectfully.

Customs Checkpoint

After your document check, proceed to collect your luggage and then proceed to the U.S. Customs (or Agricultural Department) officials. Cooperation is key when they ask about your luggage contents or request to inspect them. Be aware that the consequences of carrying illegal items are severe and may lead to deportation.

At the customs checkpoint, submit the form provided on the airplane, declaring funds exceeding $10,000 (in any currency) and any items requiring declaration. Refer to for comprehensive guidelines on allowed items and declaration requirements.

Documents for Traveling Students:

  • Valid passport (with at least six months validity beyond the intended U.S. arrival date)
  • Valid I-20 (Initial or Transfer-Pending)
  • Valid F-1 or J-1 visa (Canadians are exempt)
  • ASU admission letter
  • Financial Guarantee documents
  • SEVIS I-901 fee payment receipt
  • ASU’s travel letter (Recommendations for U.S. travel, proof of on-campus, in-person classes)

Customs and Border Protection may also inquire about the purpose and duration of your visit, your accommodations, and your financial capability during your stay in the U.S. Be prepared to present documents aligning with the purpose of your visit.

Airport Transportation and Connecting Flights

Upon clearing customs, head to the international arrivals area. If you have a connecting flight to PHX, carry your luggage to the appropriate terminal or check-in counter for your domestic flight. Many airports offer free inter-terminal shuttles for this purpose. It is advisable to review the website of your international arrival airport for specific guidance.

Each U.S. airline has its own policies for checked luggage charges and weight restrictions. Familiarize yourself with your airline’s domestic flight baggage policies to avoid surprises at check-in. The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) provides detailed information about carry-on allowances and other important travel considerations within the U.S.

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