What to Expect When You Enter the U.S.

Once you have obtained your visa, you are ready to travel to the US  Visit the US Customs and Border Protection website for details regarding preparing to enter the US and what to bring

Bring all of your immigration documents that pertain to your status, and keep these documents with you at all times during your travel. Do not leave any of these documents in your luggage as you will need to present them for inspection at the US port of entry before you can pick up your luggage in the US

Applying for “Admission”

When you arrive, you will apply for official “admission” to the US in a particular immigration classification at a U.S. port of entry. A US Customs and Border Protection (USCBP) officer will examine the following documents:

  • Passport (valid for at least six months beyond your date of entry to the US)
  • Valid visa that reflects your intended academic activities in the U.S.
  • All immigration documents [Form I-20(s) for F-1 students, Form DS-2019(s) for J-1 students and scholars, I-797B for H-1Bs, etc.]

You may also need to present all or some of the documents required to apply for your visa:

  • Letter of admission or appointment/employment from Boston University
  • Proof of F or J SEVIS fee payment
  • Original financial documents
  • Documents as a continuing student or scholar demonstrating your valid immigration status and your continued academic activities in the U.S.


The USCBP officer will ask you a few questions about why you’re traveling to or returning to the U.S. You should explain that you’re traveling to BU to study, conduct research, teach, or work, as appropriate. If you are asked about the funds that will pay for your stay, answer the question and offer to show the officer your financial documents. If you are asked about your “intentions”, answer the questions and be sure to remind the officer that you intend to return home after you complete your academic activities.

Provided you present the proper documents and the USCBP officer is satisfied with your answers, the officer will “admit” you to the U.S. in a particular visa classification. The officer will update your U.S. Department of Homeland Security entry record electronically and will stamp your passport to reflect the:

  • Day you entered the U.S.
  • Immigration status in which you have been admitted to the U.S.
  • Expiration date of this status (“D/S” reflects duration of status for F-1s, J-1s, and their dependent family members or a specific date for all other classifications)

You should check the stamp in your passport to make sure it includes all three pieces of information. Please be advised that you will also have the ability to confirm and print your entry information from an online database throughout the duration of your stay in the U.S.

When you leave the inspection area, make certain you have all of your immigration documents in your possession.

It’s important to enter the U.S. in the visa classification that best supports your academic activities in the U.S. In most cases, you should not enter the U.S. on a B-1/B-2 visitor status, nor in WT/WB status through the “visa waiver” program, as the visitor status does not support most academic activities and it is difficult and sometimes impossible to change your immigration status after you have entered the U.S.

Checking Your Documents upon Re-Entry

Each time you re-enter the U.S. from outside of North America, your passport will be stamped with your date of entry, class of admission (F-1, J-1, H-1, etc.), and expiration date. It’s important that you check the passport stamp carefully for errors at the port of entry. If there are errors, respectfully notify the official of the error and request a correction.

If a U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer determines that your documentation is incomplete when entering the U.S., you may be issued a Form I-515A and a date-specific passport entry stamp. These documents will grant you temporary admission to the U.S. (generally for 30 days). If you receive a Form I-515A, you must contact the ISSO immediately as additional documentation from the ISSO is often required in order to respond to the I-515A by the deadline. Failure to submit the proper original documentation prior to the expiration date of your passport stamp will result in the termination of both your F-1 student status and your Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) record.

If you notice any errors on your passport entry stamp after you have departed the U.S. port of entry, contact the ISSO.

Additional Information

The staff of the ISSO is pleased to provide you with information, advice, and assistance on any visa or immigration matter that relates to your activities at Boston University.