Entering the US

Individuals seeking entry into the U.S. are subject to a Port of Entry (POE) customs and immigration inspection performed by Customs & Border Protection (CBP) officers. During the immigration inspection, CBP officers will ask you to answer questions and present documents to determine your admissibility to the U.S. Listen to the questions carefully, stay calm, answer only the questions that are asked. Keep in mind that the F-1 student visa status is a nonimmigrant status granted to individuals who seek entry to the U.S to pursue a full course of study in order to achieve a specific educational goal such as being awarded a given degree at an academic institution in the United States.

Follow these steps to prepare for your arrival to the U.S. We look forward to welcoming you to SJSU!


1. Plan to enter the U.S. no earlier than 30 days prior to the start of classes

Students are only approved entry to the United States 30 days in advance of the start date on their I-20. This start date will correlate with the first day of classes for the term and can be located in section 5 of the I-20. Please ensure your arrival is not more than 30 days prior to the indicated date


2. Coordinate your travel arrangements and secure housing in the San Jose area

Once you have obtained your F-1 visa, make the appropriate travel arrangements. You will also need to reserve a place to stay in San Jose which should be available upon your arrival. (More information link to housing)


3. Prepare in advance for Customs and Immigration at the airport

Please expect this process to be a lengthy experience and prepare in advance. You must keep the following documents in your carry-on luggage so you are able to present them to a CBP officer:

  • Passport, valid for at least 6 months after the date of entry
  • F-1/J-1 visa stamp, valid at the time of entry*
  • Valid Form I-20/Form DS-2019
  • Proof of financial support and resources reflected on Form I-20/Form DS-2019 – See more details
  • Tuition and/or Housing receipt(s), if you have already made payments prior to your arrival
  • SEVIS fee receipt

*Canadian citizens are not required to apply for a visa to enter the U.S. as an F-1 or J-1, but must still pay the SEVIS Fee and present their Form I-20 or DS-2019 at the U.S. port of entry.

During the immigration inspection, CBP officers may ask you questions similar to those asked at the U.S. Embassy or Consulate during your visa interview.

It is your responsibility to prove your intent to enter the U.S. as a non-immigrant in F-1 or J-1 student status. Remember that the primary purpose of the student visa program is to pursue and complete a degree through full-time study.

These are a few examples of questions you are likely to be asked and should be prepared to answer:

  • What is your primary purpose for entering the U.S.?
  • Where do you plan to study while in the U.S.?
  • What do you plan to study while in the U.S.?
  • Where will you be living while in the U.S.?
  • How will you pay for your tuition and living expenses while in the U.S.?
  • How long do you plan to study in the U.S.?
  • What do you plan to do after completing your degree?

In addition to asking you these questions, CBP officers also have the right to look through any electronic devices you may be carrying with you. More information on this can be found here.

Transfer Students

Temporary Admission

More information on the legal authority of CBP can be found on their website. It is always important to know your rights as an F-1 visa holder. If you encounter any problems at the port of entry, please reach out to the ISSS office as soon as you are able. 


4. Getting to San Jose

Prior to arrival you should have a plan for how to travel from the airport to your accommodations. Various options for ground transportation include; airport shuttles, taxis, trains, light rail and buses. SuperShuttle, a door-to-door van service, offers SJSU students a 10% discount if booked online with the code SJSU4.

When planning your travel, take note that there are three airports which provide access to the Bay Area. Mineta San Jose is located closest to SJSU, followed by SFO and then OAK.


5. Post-Arrival

Learn more about requirements for after you have arrived



Transfer Students

If you have attended another school within the U.S., your Form I-20 may have the remark “Transfer Pending From” with the name of your past school listed in section 3. If the Customs Officer requests more details regarding this portion, politely inform them that SJSU will complete the transfer upon your arrival to our campus. You can learn more about entering the US at the Department of Homeland Security’s Study in the States website.

Temporary Admission

If you forget an immigration document, the immigration officer may issue you a Form I-515 (A), which grants you temporary admission to the U.S. for 30 days. If this occurs, please visit the International Student & Scholar Services (ISSS) office during normal business hours as soon as possible after your arrival so we can assist you with resolving this issue. Please bring all of your immigration documents, including the form I-515 (A) issued at the port of entry.

Financial Documentation

Be sure to carry with you the same financial documentation you used to request a Form I-20/DS-2019 and to apply for your F-1/J-1 visa stamp. This is very important because you may be asked by a CBP officer to show evidence that you have sufficient funds available to pay for the total estimated expense for the first year of your academic program (tuition, fees, living expenses and health insurance). You should be prepared to present the following documents:

  • SJSU Declaration of Finance Form or, sponsorship letter(s) from your financial sponsor(s) written in English and;
  • Documentation issued by a financial institution showing sufficient available funds (see the SJSU Declaration of Finance Form for a list of acceptable documents) or scholarship letter.