Entering the USA
Print out this web page and keep it with your documents to refer to.
When can I enter?
J-1 visa students and scholars and F-1 visa students entering the USA for the first time, may enter the USA up to 30 days prior to the start date on the DS-2019 or I-20. F-1 visa students re-entering the USA after transferring their SEVIS Record to Cal Poly may enter at any time with the new Cal Poly I-20 and valid F-1 visa stamp.
Check your I-20 or DS-2019 for accuracy
As soon as you receive your I-20 or DS-2019 from Cal Poly, check the information on it against your passport to be sure everything matches. Check the spelling of your name and be sure first, last, and middle names are in the right place. Check your date and place of birth. Make sure the field of study and level of education are correct. If there is any question or inconsistency, please notify the Cal Poly International Center office immediately . If a corrected document is required, the International Center will prepare one for you.
Keep your documents with you when you travel
Keep these documents with you, not in your luggage:
- Your passport
- I-20 or DS-2019
- I-901 SEVIS fee payment receipt
- Proof of financial resources
- Acceptance letter from Cal Poly
The I-94 Arrival/Departure Record
Beginning in Spring 2013, U.S. Customs and Border Protection will no longer use the I-94 Arrival/Departure Record white card in your passport to track non-immigrant arrivals and departures through USA ports of entry and exit. Please see this fact sheet for more details. Instead, you may retrieve your I-94 Arrival/Departure record online.
Show your documents to the officer at the port of entry
Check that your I-20 or DS-2019 and your I-94 card are notated with the proper visa type. Upon being granted entry into the United States, the Customs and Border Protection Inspector will stamp the bottom section of the Form I-94 (the Departure Record) with your class of admission and the length of time that you can stay in the United States. If you have an I-20, you should enter under an F-1 visa. If you have a DS-2019, you should enter under a J-1 visa.
Before you leave the airport
Check that your I-20 or DS-2019 is notated with the proper visa type and end date. If there is an error, please bring it to the officer's attention immediately. This is much easier to correct right at the airport than later on. The notation D/S means "duration of status" and means that as long as you maintain status, you may remain in that status until the end date on your I-20 or DS-2019. If your I-20 or DS-2019 are extended, you may stay in the USA. A visa extension would only be required for entry after your visa expiration date but your visa may expire while in the USA.
Keep all of your documents
Make a copy of all your documents and put them in a safe place. Safeguard the original.
The U.S. Department of State has some resources to help you plan your trip and stay in the USA.
Call if you need help
You can reach an International Student Advisor by calling 805-756-1477, Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM, if you need help with any issues you have while traveling.