Congratulations on your admission to George Mason University. We are looking forward to welcoming you when you arrive on campus to begin school. We know you have a lot to do and probably have many questions about preparing to leave home and travel to Fairfax. Please read the following information carefully. It will provide you with the information you need and answer most of your questions.
You may arrive in the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before the program start date on your I-20 or DS-2019. There are three airports in the DC Metropolitan area: Dulles International Airport (IAD), located 20 miles west of Fairfax; Baltimore/Washington International Airport (BWI), 55 miles northeast of Fairfax; Reagan National Airport (DCA), located about 15 miles east of Fairfax.
Northern Virginia has a four-season climate. Please bring clothing to accommodate a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions. Typical temperatures range from 0 to 35 degrees Celsius. Winters are cold and occasionally snowy, while summers are usually very warm and humid. If you do not have appropriate seasonal clothing, you can buy it after you arrive. Mason has a large and active international community, and we encourage you to bring some traditional clothing to wear at cultural events when you wish to share your heritage. It is also a good idea to bring your favorite music, some photos, and books in your language to help you feel at home and to share with your new friends. You will also need sheets and blankets; they are not provided by landlords or in campus residences. Dress for class is casual; however, you may want to bring a few formal outfits for special events.
Keep the following documents on your person at all times during travel to the U.S.: Your passport, I-20 or DS-2019, financial documents, Mason admission letter, SEVIS fee receipt, and Mason pre-arrival guide.
If you are traveling by air, flight attendants should hand you a Customs Declaration Form (CF-6059) and Arrival/Departure Record Forms (I-94). If you are arriving by land or sea, the immigration officer will provide you with the CF-6059 and the I-94 form at the port of entry.
Proceed to the Custom and Borders Inspection site near the terminal area. Be prepared to present your passport, I-20 or DS-2019, I-94 and the CF-6059. The address on the I-94 form should reflect the address where you will reside in the U.S., even if it is temporary.
You will have to state your reason for entering the United States. You should tell the Customs and Borders Protection (CBP) officer that you will be a student (if you are coming for a degree program) or that you will be teaching or conducting research (if you are a J-1 scholar or professor). Be prepared to provide the university address and additional information such as financial documents or your admission letter. Do not leave without getting your I-20 or DS-2019 and your I-94 card stamped, “F/1 D/S” for F-1 student and “J/1 D/S” for exchange visitors.
If the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer cannot verify your information or if you do not have all of the required documentation, you may be directed to what is known as secondary inspection. The CBP officer will first try to check your status by using SEVIS. If the CBP officer needs to verify information with your school or program, give the officer Mason’s contact information located on page 11 of this brochure.
If you fail to provide required documentation, the CBP official may give you a form I-515A which authorizes temporary admission into the United States. If you receive an I-515A, come directly to OIPS and speak with an advisor.
All nonimmigrant visa holders including F-1 and J-1 students and scholars must participate in the US-VISIT Program which includes taking digital photographs and fingerprints. For more information please go to: www.dhs.gov/usvisit.
Some students may be asked to provide additional information and register under the NSEERS program. A packet of information will be available at the point of entry that explains the registration procedures. For more information: http://www.ice.gov/doclib/pi/specialregistration/walkawaymaterial.pdf.