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 (which you must do in person), and settle in to living in the United States. 

Entering the US

When you travel, you should carry some specific documents on your person—do not check them in your baggage. If your baggage is lost or delayed, you will not be able to show the documents to the Customs and Border Protection Officer and, as a result, may not be able to enter the United States.

Documents to carry on you:

  • Passport with J-1 visa
  • Form DS-2019
  • Program offer letter and evidence of financial resources

A visa allows a foreign citizen coming from abroad to travel to a United States port-of entry and request permission to enter the US. You should be aware that a visa does not guarantee entry into the United States. The Department of Homeland Security, US Customs, and Border Protection (CBP) officials have authority to permit or deny admission to the United States.

When you arrive at the port-of-entry, you will be asked to state the reason you wish to enter the United States. You will also be asked to provide information about your final destination. Once your inspection is complete, the inspecting officer will stamp your passport and return your Form DS-2019 to you.

If you arrive at a US port of entry and do not have all your signed 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 you a Form I-515A. This document allows you to have temporary admission into the US for 30 days. To maintain your nonimmigrant J-1 status, you must address the Form I-515A within the time provided to you. If you receive a Form I-515A upon entry into the US, you must notify the Center for Global Health immediately.

I-94 Record

Each time that you enter the US, you will be issued an I-94 admission record (also known as the I-94 arrival record or simply I-94 record). 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 can legally remain in the US.

Most I-94 records are issued electronically. This means that, unless you are arriving at a land port-of-entry, you will not receive a paper I-94 record. You must access your I-94 record online at the CBP I-94 website and save/print the I-94 record for your own records. We recommend that you print each I-94 record and also save an electronic copy. Keep in mind that you will be issued a new I-94 record each time you enter the US. Therefore, you must go to the I-94 website and retrieve your I-94 record immediately after each entry into the US.

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.” You must also review your I-94 record to ensure that your biographic information (name, birthdate, country, passport number) is correct. 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.

Arriving at MUSC

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

It is extremely important that you complete the J-1 check in 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 J-1 check in appointment in advance. We recommend scheduling this appointment as soon as you know the date you will arrive in the US.

You must contact the administrative contact in your sponsoring MUSC department for more information on any other required tasks, such as health screening and getting an ID badge. The name of the specific administrative contact in your department can be found within the initial J-1 program offer letter that you signed. You must contact your sponsoring MUSC department regarding things like getting an MUSC NetID/email address and identification badge.