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Plan Your Arrival

If you are making your initial (first) arrival in the US using your F-1, J-1, H-1B or other type of visa, there are specific rules that determine when you can arrive in the US and the documents you will need to present in order to be allowed to enter the US.

Earliest Day to Arrive

For your initial arrival, there are restrictions on how early you can arrive in the US:

  • If you are an F-1 student, you can arrive no earlier than thirty (30) days before the program start date printed on your Form I-20 from Tufts
  • If you are a J-1 student or J-1 scholar, you can arrive no earlier than thirty (30) days before the program start date printed on your Form DS-2019 from Tufts or from your J-1 sponsor
  • If you are an H-1B temporary worker, you can arrive no earlier than ten (10) days before the validity date on your I-797 Approval Notice; your earliest arrival day may also be indicated on your H-1B visa

Late Arrival

Contact the International Center if you will not be able to arrive in the US before, or by, the start date of your program as indicated on your I-20 or DS-2019 form. While short delays of a few days are often acceptable, you should review the details with an International Center advisor. In particular, delays of more than a week may require us to re-issue your I-20 or DS-2019 visa certificate to you, to minimize the chances of difficulty upon arrival in the US.

US Customs and Border Protection Inspection

When you arrive at a US airport (port of entry) or border crossing, you will be met by a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer. Be ready to present the following documents. IMPORTANT: if arriving in the US by air, do not pack your immigration documents in your checked luggage; have them ready in your carry-on bag so that you have access to them when going through US Customs.

  1. Your passport, which should be valid for the duration of your program, or no less than six months into the future
  2. Your visa certificate from Tufts (Form I-20 / Form DS-2019 / I-797 Approval Notice)
  3. A valid US visa (exception: Canadian citizens do not require visas)
  4. Supporting documents such as
    • Your I-901 SEVIS fee payment receipt (F-1 and J-1 visa holders only)
    • Your admission letter (students) or invitation / appointment letter (scholars and employees) from Tufts
    • Financial documents, such as your bank statements, scholarship letters, or job offer letters from Tufts
    • CV or resume (scholars)
    • Other evidence that shows your purpose for coming to the US

Be prepared to answer questions about your reasons for coming to the US - such as to study, do research, or teach at Tufts - and the expected length of your stay in the US. For more information about the arrival process, go to the CBP web site for international arrivals.

If you have more than one US visa in your passport, it is important to show the visa and other documents related to your purpose for coming to Tufts. Otherwise, you may be mistakenly admitted in an incorrect status.

Your I-94 Record

Once a CBP officer approves your entry into the US, the officer may stamp your passport indicating your status and the date of entry. Because the passport entry stamp is not required, it is not a problem if you do not receive one. However, the officer must also update your electronic I-94 admission record to show the date you entered the US, the status you were given (e.g., F-1, J-1, H-1B, etc.) and the date your expiration status. This electronic record is your proof of legal admission into the US in the appropriate student, scholar, or employee status.

You should check your I-94 after entering the US, by going to the CBP's I-94 lookup site. It is important that you view your I-94 information every time you return from a trip from outside the US. Mistakes sometimes happen and errors need to corrected as quickly as possible. Contact the International Center if you have any questions about your I-94.

Important: F-1 and J-1 visa holders, and their F-2 / J-2 dependents, should always have an I-94 that indicates an "admit until" date of "D/S". D/S stands for "duration of status," which means that you are allowed to remain in the US as long as your F or J documents are unexpired and you are continuing to pursue your program of study, research, or teaching at Tufts. H-1B visa holders however will have I-94 records that have a specific expiration date which indicates the date that your H-1B status expires.

Arrivals at a Land Border Crossing: If you are arriving in the US at a land border crossing along the Canadian or Mexican border, you will need to complete a paper I-94 card when going through immigration inspection and clearance.