New J-1 Exchange Visitor Travel to the United States

Once you have your J-1 visa, you can travel to the US up to 30 days in advance of your J-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 any University onboarding requirements, apply for a Social Security number, and settle in to living in the United States. It takes most new exchange visitors at least two weeks to complete all of these activities after arrival in the United States. At minimum, you must plan to arrive in the United States at least one week prior to your J-1 program start date.

Entering the US

A J-1 visa allows a foreign citizen to travel to a United States port-of entry and request permission to enter the US in J-1 status. Please keep in mind that a J-1 visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The US Department of Homeland Security, US 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 have the following documents on you:

  • Passport with valid J-1 visa
  • Valid MUSC Form DS-2019

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 US port of entry and do not have all of the required documents, or if you have a SEVIS status issue, the CBP officer may deny your entry into the United States. As an alternative, the CBP officer has discretion to issue a Form I-515A. The I-515A document allows you temporary admission into the US (typically for 30 days). To maintain your J-1 status, you must address the deficiencies stated in your Form I-515A within the time provided to you. If you receive a Form I-515A upon entry into the US, please notify 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 also known as the I-94 admission record, I-94 arrival/departure record, or I-94 card. The I-94 record is important because it serves as evidence of the nonimmigrant status you were granted when you last entered the US, and how long you may legally remain in the US.

I-94 records are accessed electronically (you will not receive a paper document in most circumstances). You can access your I-94 arrival record online at the CBP I-94 website. Each time that you enter the US, 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 J-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, contact the Center for Global Health as soon as possible

Arriving at MUSC

After arriving in Charleston, you will be very busy with getting settled into living in the US and completing any onboarding, orientation, Human Resources, and other required administrative tasks before beginning your J-1 program activities at MUSC.

It is extremely important that you complete the New J-1 Arrival Orientation with the Center for Global Health upon your arrival so that your J-1 SEVIS record can be validated. Refer to the J-1 Mandatory Check In page for more information on this process. Please note that you must schedule your New J-1 Arrival Orientation session in advance.

You should contact the administrative contact person in your sponsoring MUSC department for more information on any other required onboarding or University clearance tasks. The name of the specific administrative contact in your department can be found in your J-1 program offer letter. This person is your best resource for questions about Human Resources processes, employee health screening, background checks, getting an MUSC NetID/email address, and getting an MUSC identification badge.