If you are planning to travel outside of the U.S., this information is for you.
If you are planning to travel during any school breaks, visit the Director of International Affairs at least ONE week before you plan to leave.
The signature on the Form I-20 verifies that you are a full-time student in valid F-1 non-immigrant status.
It takes 24 hours. Signing the Form I-20 involves status and enrollment verification. You should plan to have your Form I-20 signed well in advance of travel outside of the U.S.
Check all visa requirements for your country/passport country and the place of travel. You are required to fulfill their visa requirements, as well as keep you US visa current for re-entry. If you have a valid passport, a current F-1 visa, a Form I-20 with and up-to-date re-entry signature, and a Form I-94 indicating you have been admitted for Duration of Status (D/S) you can re-enter the U.S. in valid F-1 status as long as your trip is less than 30 days. You must retain your Form I-94 and tell the border official that you are taking advantage of "automatic visa revalidation." Currently, this benefit does not apply to citizens of Cuba, Iran, Iraq, Libya, North Korea, Sudan, and Syria. In addition, if you decide to renew your visa in Canada, Mexico, or any adjacent island and your visa is denied, you may not re-enter the U.S. on automatic visa revalidation.
Though all your documents are not required for domestic travel, we suggest that you travel with all your documents as you would when travelling internationally. If you have a U.S. driver’s license you can bring that as an ID, but do not count this as your official identification. You still should travel with your passport and other legal documents. Also, make sure all travel documents and/or tickets have your name on it as it appears on your passport. If the names are different you will experience problems and may not be able to use your ticket.
It is the student’s responsibility to keep all the legal documentation. That means you should keep all I-20s and copies of all documents you are issued during your time in the U.S. It is recommended that you make a copy of all your documents before you travel (if you need help, please contact the Director of International Affairs) and keep them separately from your originals here at school. Although the Director of International Affairs has these copies, you should store a copy yourself away from the original documents.
You may enter the U.S. in initial F-1 status (meaning you are a new international student, not a SEVIS transfer student) up to 30 days before the program start date on your I-20.
Your I-20 should indicate the earliest date you can enter the U.S.:
While you may be aware of students successfully entering the U.S. more than 30 days in advance, we urge you not to attempt this. The inspectors at U.S. ports of entry have the authority to refuse you entry to the U.S., which means you would not be able to leave the airport and would have to return to your home country at your own expense.
If you find it necessary to visit the U.S. between now and your earliest possible F-1 entry date, you may do so with a tourist visa or under the Visa Waiver Program, depending on your home country. This allows you to visit, then return home, and re-enter the U.S. in F-1 status within the proper time frame. Please note that if you plan to enter under the Visa Waiver Program, you will be required to register and obtain travel clearance through the online Electronic System for Travel Authorization (ESTA) before boarding a carrier bound for the United States.
To comply with federal immigration regulations, you must be in a status that legally allows study before your program begins.
The start date listed on your I-20 is based on the requirements of your academic unit. Start dates take into account required orientation and other preparatory programs that all students must attend. Start dates cannot be customized for the circumstances of individual students.
F-1: If you received an I-20, your start date can be found under “Program of Study” on page one:
Visit the Coe College academic calendar to find the first day of classes.
The next step in the visa-related process will be entering the U.S. which involves an inspection at the port of entry. Most often, this is the airport where you first land in the U.S., but it could also be a sea port or a land port of entry, depending on your mode of travel.
If you will initially land in the U.S. and will then connect to Cedar Rapids from there, you should allow plenty of time between your arrival and connecting flight, as you have to go through immigration and customs inspection at the first point of entry to the country.
Regardless of where you enter the U.S., be prepared to provide the following documents at the port of entry to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. NOTE: CBP inspection takes place before you collect your luggage, so you must have these documents on your person. Do not put your travel documents in your checked luggage.
If you were given a brown envelope at your visa interview, it will contain several of the above documents.
Upon inspection of your documents, you may be sent to “secondary inspection” which means an additional inspection of your documents is required. Often this is done on a random basis and may have nothing to do with your specific circumstances.
Although secondary inspection can be intimidating and cause anxiety, there is usually little cause for alarm. Waiting in secondary can take up to a few hours, but almost always results in successful admissions afterwards.
If there is a question regarding your documents, inspectors at the port of entry will attempt to contact Coe’s DIA to verify that you should be admitted. It is important that you remain calm during the process. Even if there are delays and your patience is tested, it will ease the process to be cooperative. It will also help to have the DIA’s office telephone number with you (in a place such as your wallet). It is 319.399.8843.
We recommend you review the Immigrations and Customs Enforcement (ICE) travel FAQs before coming into the U.S.
When you are at the port of entry, the officer will place an admission stamp in your passport and then write the visa status you are being given (F-1) and the expiration date. For F-1 students, the expiration is noted with “D/S” which stands for ‘duration of status.’ If your stamp shows the incorrect status or a specific date instead of D/S, RETURN to the inspection area and request your stamp be corrected. In the event this is not possible, please contact the ISA the next business day. When you enter the country, an electronic record of your admission, known as the I-94, will also be created. You can retrieve a copy of your I-94 by visiting the CBP website.
It is recommended that you carry the contact information of the ISA’s office with you, so that if you encounter any difficulties, the ISA can assist you. The telephone number is (+1) 319.3998843.