Immigration Process for F-1 Students in the US: Everything You Need to Know about Immigration at US Airport Image
Student VISA

Immigration Process for F-1 Students in the US: Everything You Need to Know about Immigration at US Airport

Yocket Editorial Team
5 mins read

Now that you have finally completed the long and arduous journey of arriving at your dream study destination, you might be wondering - 'What's next?' Well, the first thing you will encounter once you disembark at the US airport is the Customs and Border Protection (CBP). The CBP's first and foremost concern is security, and therefore, it is their job to thoroughly investigate your documents and your job to cooperate with their demands fully.

But before you meet the CBP officer, there is still an elaborate Immigration process that you will need to go through. We have listed a step-by-step explanation of the entire process, along with tips on making it less stressful and more smooth-sailing. Keep reading to find out! 

What Are the Reasons I May Be Denied Entry as an F-1 Student?

Before you learn about tips to aid your immigration process in the US, it might prove beneficial for you to know the reasons why some students are denied entry at the airport:

  1. Misplaced/Missing Documents:

If you do not have all the sufficient documents to prove your identity as an F-1 student and your purpose for entering the country, you stand a high chance of being deported back home.

  1. Misuse of the F-1 status/Dual-Intent:

Some students maliciously use the F-1 Visa, which is meant solely for educational purposes, as a means to stay in the US for an extended period.

  1. Suspicion of Abuse of the F-1 Visa:

If the CBP officer is convinced that you are entering the US, not for educational purposes but other malicious purposes, you can be denied entry.

What Documents Should I Carry as an F-1 Student at the US Airport?

The most basic way to minimize your chances of being denied entry into the US is to carry all the required documents with you. Remember not to put them in your checked luggage but instead keep them handy if you are required to pull them out.

F-1 Student Required Documents Checklist

  1. Passport (valid up to at least six months from your date of arrival to the US).

  2. F-1 Visa

  3. I-20

  4. SEVIS 1-901 fee payment receipt

  5. Documents showing your sponsor's financial capability to fund your education for your first year of studies.

  6. Original documents of your educational certificates

  7. Copies of Transcripts

  8. Contact Information about your University's DSO

  9. US Address

  10. GRE, TOEFL score reports (optional, but recommended)

What is The Immigration Process at The Airport?

The Immigration Process for F1 visa students is explained here in a step-by-step format:

  1. When you board your flight, a set of Customs and Immigration documents to fill and present to the CBP officer at the destination airport will be given to you. So, your immigration process begins even before you reach the US Airport. Please note, however, that Custom and Border Protection (CBP) has started an easier and paperless 1-94 process since April 2013, which does not require US visitors to fill Paper 1-94 form.

  2. When you disembark from the plane at the port of entry, head towards international arrivals, Immigration and Customs. Here, remember to look self-assured and be confident of your next step. An apprehensive look on your face may raise suspicion from the immigration officer.

  3. Upon entering the immigration facilities, you will be called to the Passport Control/immigration Counter and will have to stand in the lane dedicated to foreign citizens. Calmly hand over your passport and immigration/customs forms to the officer on duty.

You can expect the officer to ask you the following questions and more:

  • What is your purpose for entering the United States of America?

  • What school are you planning to study at? And what course have you chosen?

  • How are you going to be paying for your education?

This line of questioning can last anywhere between five to ten minutes and is generally pleasant. If convinced by your answer, the officer will validate your passport by putting an entry stamp on your passport. This stamp along with your Visa symbolises your legal status of a F-1 student in the US. You will now be entitled to stay and study in the US until the date mentioned on your Visa.

While you may feel intimidated by a series of inspections and interrogations, please understand that this immigration check is essential for the well-being of the country you will be residing in. 

4. Once you have cleared the passport control, move to the baggage claim section to collect your baggage and swiftly proceed to customs. Here, there are two lanes you need to be mindful of:

  • Red Lane that reads 'Goods to Declare'

  • Green Lane that reads 'Nothing to Declare'

5. After you move out of customs and immigration facilities, you will enter the international arrivals area. Now you can quickly proceed to the university shuttles, cars, or taxis prearranged for your local destination.

Your Immigration Process has officially concluded, and now, you can carry on with the rest of your journey!

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