Skip to main content

Arrival in US: Customs & I-94

You are on your way! We look forward to meeting you when you arrive.

When should you arrive in the U.S.?

Depending on your visa status, there are limitations for when you are allowed to enter the United States.

F-1 or J-1 students/scholars may not enter the U.S. earlier than 30 days prior to the start date on your I-20 or DS-2019 form.  We recommend arriving at least one week before classes begin so you have time to prepare.  

H-1B, TN and E-3: You can enter the U.S. up to 10 days before your start date.

Students and Scholars you may stay in the United States as long as your immigration status remains valid. 

Please review this link for current travel updates. 

Students returning from breaks are expected to be in the United States to engage in face-to-face courses or research courses by the beginning of the semester.

Scholars are expected to engage face-to-face in their research activities with their faculty host. Telework is limited to 1-2 days a week.

As you prepare to depart your home country, make sure you pack the following in your carry-on luggage:

  • Your passport, valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected stay
  • Your Form I-20 if you are F-1 student or your Form DS-2019 if you are a J-1 student/scholars. Form I-797 for H-1B and TN
  • Evidence of financial resources – Copies of the documents you submitted for you I-20/DS-2019 checklist
  • Letter of admission  / Letter of invitation or appointment
  • Receipt for the SEVIS fee
  • University of Maryland Phone Numbers: International Student and Scholar Services: +001-301-314-7740 and the University of Maryland Campus Policy (after business hours): +001-301-405-3555

The U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) I-94 Arrival/Departure Form records when you enter the United States and indicates the “Admit Until Date.” 

Before you arrive at the U.S. border, U.S. CBP encourages you to use the CBP One mobile app or website to apply for your provisional I-94 Record. Obtaining a provisional I-94 Record helps reduce wait times. The recommendation also applies to those who are in the Visa Waiver Program.

Note: Once you submit your application, you are required to appear at a U.S. port of entry within 7 days.

You will receive a new I-94 record each time you enter the U.S. (replacing the previous record). We recommend you check your I-94 each time to ensure you have been admitted in the correct immigration class. This is especially important for those who hold multiple valid visas. 

You can Get Most Recent I-94 by using your passport and travel information. The information should indicate "F-1, D/S" if you are an F-1 student or "J-1, D/S" if you are a J-1 exchange visitor. You must exit the U.S. on or before this date.

You will need to save an electronic copy (PDF) to your computer or cell phone. You will need it to complete the UMD Check-in process. You may also be asked to show your I-94 Form while in the U.S. to obtain a driver’s license, etc.

At the port-of-entry, you should prepare your documents and open your passport to your U.S. visa for the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer.

  • Passport
  • I-20 or DS-2019

NOTE: If you are a citizen of Canada or Bermuda, you do not need a U.S. visa.

Primary Inspection

Every individual (including U.S. citizens) are subject to questioning through Primary Inspection at a U.S. port of entry. The officer may ask you questions about the purpose of your visit, where you will live, or other questions to determine your eligibility to enter the U.S.

If the officer cannot determine your eligibility to enter the US and needs more information, they will direct you to a “secondary inspection” area.

Secondary Inspection

Being referred to Secondary inspection does not mean that you have done anything wrong.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer will ask you more questions about your intended major/program of study, employment history, post-graduation plans, or other information. The American Civil Liberties Union has information about your rights at the U.S. Port of Entry if you would like to know more.

Note: The CBP officer may tell you that you may not make any phone calls without their permission. Please follow their directions.

If the CBP Officer asks you for contact information for the school, they, or you, if permitted by the officer, can call our office or the UMD Campus Police.

Call the ISSS Office during business hours, Monday-Friday, 8:30 am-4:30 pm EST at 301-314-7740.

Call UMD Campus Police if our office is closed at 301-405-3555. The campus police will notify ISSS staff to return the call at the number you or the CBP officer provides.

Finally, please note that Secondary Inspection may take time. There is no way to hurry the process. We advise you to remain patient and calm. You may request (though it may not be granted) that CBP assist you in contacting anyone who may be waiting for you at the airport.

If you arrive at a U.S. port of entry without your documents

The CBP officer MAY, per their discretion, issue you a Form I-515A. Form I-515A will allow you admission to the United States temporarily for 30 days. To maintain your visa status, you must respond to the Form I-515A by the timeline indicated. Make an appointment with an international advisor as soon as possible so we can assist you.

Back to Top