This web page covers important information about arrival procedures (entry paperwork, port of entry, secondary inspection, etc).
- You may arrive in the U.S. no earlier than 30 days before the program start date on your I-20 or DS-2019.
- Always hand-carry your important documents when traveling to and from the U.S. including your passport, I-20 or DS-2019, financial documents, Mason admission letter and SEVIS fee receipt.
- Fact Sheet: Aviation Security Enhancements for Select Last Point of Departure Airports with Commercial Flights to the United States (March 21, 2017) -- The fact sheet includes a list of electronic devices that are not allowed as carry-on luggage.
Complete Entry Paperwork
In order to streamline passenger processing, U. S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) has automated its arrival and departure process and eliminating the paper Form I-94 for air and sea travelers. You will be able to obtain your admission number and electronic I-94 record through the website https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/. Different versions of Form I-94 might still be issued by Department of Homeland Security (DHS) agencies. If you are traveling by air, flight attendants should hand you a U.S. Customs Declaration Form (CF-6059). If you are arriving by land or sea, the immigration officer will provide you with the CF-6059 at the port of entry.
Port of Entry
Proceed to the Custom and Borders Inspection site near the terminal area. Be prepared to present your passport, I-20, and the CF-6059.
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. Be prepared to provide university address and additional information such as financial documents or your admission letter. Do not leave without getting your passport stamped, “F/1 D/S”
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, please call (703) 993-2970.
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.
U.S. Customs and Border Protection
In this video, you will learn about U.S. Customs and Border Protection. Upon arrival, you will follow the sign "Non-US citizens." Please note that students in F-1 status do NOT qualify for the Global Entry program or the Automated Passport Control (APC). Make sure you complete a U.S. Customs Declaration form while you are in the plane. You will need to present this form, together with your passport and your I-20 or DS-2019 upon arrival in the US. Watch the video to learn more.
Marie’s Travel to the US Experience
In this video, Marie talks about her travel to the US experience. Marie flew direct from Paris to Washington Dulles International Airport.
Sudhamini’s Travel the US Experience
In this video, Sudhamini talks about her travel to the US experience, including her interaction with the CPB officer and tips on how to label your bags. Sudhamini's itinerary was as follows: Hyderabad - Mumbai - London - Philadelphia - Washington DC.
Hamza’s Travel to the US Experience
In this video, Hamza talks about her travel to the US experience. Hamza first came to the US to participate in a summer research program at Mason. He later returned to pursue a graduate degree.
Preclearance locations. There are 15 air Preclearance locations in 6 countries: Dublin and Shannon in Ireland; Aruba; Freeport and Nassau in The Bahamas; Bermuda; Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates; and Calgary, Toronto, Edmonton, Halifax, Montreal, Ottawa, Vancouver, and Winnipeg in Canada.