Big Data

Entering the U.S.

Learn about entering the United States as an International Student or Scholar.

Whether you’re entering on an F or J visa, there are important considerations to keep in mind as you prepare for your arrival in the U.S.

When to Enter

J-1 visa students and scholars and F-1visa students entering the USA for the first time may enter the USA up to 30 days prior to the start date on the DS2019 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.

Plan to arrive in time to attend your prescribed orientation events.


Documents to keep 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

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 following:

  • Spelling of your name and be sure first, last, and middle names are in the right place
  • Date and place of birth
  • Field of study and level of education

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.

Show your documents to the officer at the port of entry

Check that your entry stamp is notated with the proper visa type. Upon being granted entry into the United States, the Customs and Border Protection Inspector will stamp your passport 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 F-1 status. If you have a DS-2019, you should enter under J-1 status.

Keep all your documents safe

Make a copy of all your documents and put them in a safe place. Safeguard the original.

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.

Get help

Call if you need help

If you need help with any issues you have while traveling, you can reach an International Student Advisor by calling 805-756-1477.
Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM to 5:00 PM