Travel and Re-Entry to the United States
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/J-1 student visa status is a nonimmigrant status granted to individuals seeking entry to the U.S to pursue a full course of study to achieve a specific educational goal.
In addition to asking you questions, CBP officers also have the right to look through any electronic devices you may be carrying with you. More information on searching electronic devices can be found on the CBP site. 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/J-1 visa holder. If you encounter any problems at the port of entry, please reach out to the ISSS office as soon as you can.
** Please make sure to review the information on the immigration updates page for the most up to date and current information on travel restrictions and COVID testing requirements. Please be sure to contact ISSS for addititonal information.
You must keep the following documents in your carry-on luggage so that you can present them to a U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer:
- Passport: must be valid at least six months into the future at all times.
- F-1/J-1 visa stamp: must be valid on the date of your return to the U.S. (Canadian citizens are not required to apply for a visa to enter the U.S.).
- Form I-20/Form DS-2019: make sure your original form I-20 or DS-2019 has been properly endorsed for travel by a Designated School Official (DSO). The travel signature must be less than one
year old at the time of entry. Students on OPT or OPT STEM Extension must have a travel
signature less than 6 months old.
We recommend having the following documents in your carry-on, in case you need to access them when entering the U.S.
- Evidence of enrollment at SJSU: It is recommended that students travel with proof of the new semester's registration (e.g., printout of full-time class enrollment with course units and schedules from MySJSU).
- Proof of financial support: It is strongly recommended that F/J non-immigrants carry proof of the financial support and resources reflected on the Form I-20 or DS-2019.
- SEVIS (I-901) Fee Payment: It is also recommended to travel with proof of your SEVIS fee payment. If you need confirmation of your previous SEVIS fee payment, visit the SEVIS fee payment page and select the option to "Check I-901 Status/ Print Payment Confirmation."
- Tuition and/or Housing receipt(s): Make sure to bring your receipts if you have already made payments before your arrival.
Learn more about your immigration documents
Complete the Travel Signature/I-20 Request (for F-1 students) or the Travel Signature/DS-2019 Request (for J-1 exchange students) in the iSpartan system several weeks before your departure date.
Processing time is approximately 2-3 business days. An updated I-20 will be sent to you via email. If you are an exchange student, we will email you once this has been processed, so you can come into the office to pick-up your DS-2019. Contact the ISSS office by phone (408-924-5920) or email (Internationalemail@example.com). You may also choose to stop by the office if you have any questions.
Students on OPT or OPT STEM Extension
In addition to the documents listed above, you should carry the following documents:
- Your valid EAD card (Employment Authorization Document)
- A letter from your current employer verifying employment or a job offer letter from a new employer.
Temporary Admission (Form I-515A)
If you forget an immigration document or your I-20 (F-1)/DS-2019 (J-1) does not have a valid travel signature, the CBP 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 contact the ISSS at firstname.lastname@example.org as soon as possible after your arrival, so we can advise you accordingly to assist you with resolving this issue.
Immigration Inspection Questions
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 allow students to pursue and complete a degree through full-time study(F-1) or to engage in a temporary exchange program (J-1).
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?