Entering the United States

What to Expect at Custom and Border Protection

When you first enter the U.S., you will immediately go through an immigration and customs inspection with U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP). You will only go through the inspection process at the airport where you first enter the U.S. Make sure you allow 2 to 4 hours to complete the inspection process.

There are some airports outside the U.S. where you may go through this inspections process prior to your departure. Review the list of "Preclearance ​Locations" before you travel.

Important: make sure you enter before your arrival date.

Do not put your immigration documents in your checked luggage!

When you enter the U.S. you must bring all of your immigration documents with you, and keep them with you at all times when you travel. You will be required to go through the inspection before you will be allowed to collect your luggage.

Carry the following documents with you to present to CBP:

  • Passport (with at least 6 months of future validity)
  • I-20 for F students, or DS-2019 for J students
  • Valid visa
  • SEVIS fee receipt (for F-1 and J-1 students)
  • Proof of finances for your study in the U.S., including for the support of dependents who accompany you
  • Letter of admission to the University of Kansas

The CBP officer will examine all of your documents, and may ask you several questions about why you are traveling to the U.S. and how you plan to finance your stay. Politely and honestly answer the CBP officer’s questions. The CBP officer will then decide if you will be admitted to the United States.

You may be sent to another area for a second inspection with a CBP officer. The CBP officer’s decision to send a person to secondary inspection is sometimes random, or it may be because they decided they needed more time to look at your documents and perform additional inspections. It is important to remain calm and polite during the inspection process. 

Once the CBP officer has made the decision to admit you to the U.S., you will be photographed, fingerprinted and an admission stamp will be put in your passport. The stamp will indicate the status you are being given (F-1, J-1 etc). Your arrival will be registered electronically. Afterwards you can log into the CBP website to view and print a copy of your I-94, a document that verifies your legal entry.

When you leave the inspection area, make sure you do not leave any of your documents behind! Once you have finished the inspection process, you will be able to claim your luggage and continue on your way.

For more information about Port of Entry, immigration status and what you can bring into the U.S., visit the U.S. Immigration website and the U.S. Customs website

For an overview on being an international student studying in the U.S. please review the Department of Homeland Security’s "Guide to Studying in the States".