New Student Travel to the U.S.

Once you have your F-1 visa, you can travel to the U.S. up to 30 days in advance of your F-1 program start date. We highly recommend that you take advantage of this entire pre-program grace period. This period of time will allow you to find housing, complete orientation and other University requirements, complete the F-1 arrival check in process, register for classes, and settle in to living in the United States before your classes begin.

Entering the United States

An F-1 visa allows an international student to travel to a United States port-of-entry and request permission to enter the U.S. in F-1 status. Please be aware that an F-1 visa does not guarantee entry into the U.S. The Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officials have sole authority to permit or deny admission to the United States.

When you arrive at the port-of-entry, you will be asked to present your documents and state the reason you wish to enter the United States. You must carry the following documents on you:

  • Passport with valid F-1 visa
  • MUSC Form I-20 signed by you
  • Financial documents showing how you will pay education, living and travel costs

Please ensure that you have the above documents with you (on your person). Do not store these documents in your checked baggage. Once your inspection is complete, the CBP officer will return your documents to you.

If you arrive at a U.S. port-of-entry and do not have all of the required documents, or if you have an F-1 SEVIS status issue, the CBP officer may deny your entry into the United States. As an alternative, the officer has discretion to issue a Form I-515A. The I-515A document allows you temporary admission into the United States for 30 days. To maintain your F-1 student status, you must address the deficiencies in the Form I-515A within the time provided to you. If you receive a Form I-515A upon entry into the U.S., please contact the Center for Global Health immediately.

I-94 Record

Each time that you enter the United States, you will be issued an I-94 arrival record. The I-94 record is important because it serves as evidence of the nonimmigrant status you were granted when you last entered the U.S., and how long you may legally remain in the U.S.

I-94 records are accessed electronically, you will not receive a paper document in most circumstances. You will access your I-94 arrival record online at the CBP I-94 website. Each time that you enter the U.S., you must go to the I-94 website and retrieve your I-94 record. You must save a copy of the I-94 record for your records. We recommend that you both print the I-94 record and save an electronic copy.

Your I-94 record should list F-1 as your class of admission. Your I-94 record should list D/S for your Admit Until Date, which means “duration of status.” It is extremely important that the information in your I-94 record is correct. If you find an error in your I-94 record, please contact the Center for Global Health as soon as possible.