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OGE – Office of International Programs
University of Mississippi

Entering the United States

Traveling is essential for all international students whether you are a newly admitted international student who is traveling to the U.S. for the first time or a current international student who would like to travel abroad for a short visit. We are here to help you become familiar with important immigration regulations that pertain to your particular case.


This page covers the following sections:

  • F and J Visa Categories Sponsored by UM
  • Arrival to the United States

F and J Visa Categories at UM

F-1 or J-1 statuses are the most common visa categories for students. OIP will determine the proper category based on your admission status and intent, any current or previous U.S. visa status (if applicable), funding sources, and other requirements, restrictions or preferences. Once the proper category is determined and the required documents are submitted, OIP will issue the proper document in order for you to apply for a visa and obtain admission to the U.S. in the appropriate category. Note that I-20s are issued for F-1 visas, and DS-2019s are issued for J-1 visas.

Arrival to the United States

Plan Your Arrival

F-1 Students and J-1 students  may be refused entry into the United States if attempting to arrive more than 30 days before the program start date listed on the Form I-20 or DS-2019.

Always Carry Your Documents

Do not store your passport or I-20 or DS-2019 or other immigration documents in your baggage or luggage.

If your baggage is lost or delayed, you will be unable to present the documents at your port of entry. As a result, you may not be able to enter the United States.

You should hand carry the following documentation in a folder or envelope:

    1. Your passport, valid for at least six months into the future
    2. SEVIS Form I-20 (F-1 Students) or DS-2019 (J-1 Students)
    3. Evidence of financial resource(s)
    4. Letter of enrollment from the Office of the Registrar or letter of acceptance as a participant in the J-1 Exchange Visitor Program
    5. Paper receipt of the SEVIS I-901 fee (F-1 and J-1 students)
    6. Name and contact information for your sponsoring organization, including a 24-hour emergency contact number.

As You Arrive at the Port of Entry

    Proceed to the terminal area for arriving passengers. Have the following documents available for presentation:

    1. Your passport;
    2. Your I-20 or DS-2019
    3. Customs Declaration Form (CF-6059B).

All visitors entering the United States must state their reason for wishing to enter the country. You will also be asked to provide information about your final destination. It is important for J-1 Visa holders to tell the CBP Officer that they will be an exchange visitor. F-1 Students must tell the CBP Officer that they will be a student. Be prepared to include the name and address of the school program where you will enroll/participate.

Once your inspection is successfully completed, the inspecting officer will stamp your passport with date and port of entry information. The officer will also write the classification being given which should be F1 or J1 and valid until D/S meaning duration of status.

Before Leaving the Inspections Area

Make sure you have all of your documentation, including the following:

    1. Passport
    2. I-20 (F-1 Students) or DS-2019 (J-1 Students )
    3. All supporting documents (letters, proof of finances, etc.)

Secondary Inspections Requirements

If the CBP officer at the port of entry cannot initially verify your information or you do not have all of the required documentation, you may be directed to an interview area known as “secondary inspection.” Secondary inspection allows inspectors to conduct additional research in order to verify information without causing delays for other arriving passengers.

It is important to answer all questions the CBP officer asks. Remember to remain calm. Secondary inspection is a normal process.

The CBP officer will first attempt to verify the status of F-1 or J-1 visa holders by using the Student and Exchange and Visitor Information System (SEVIS). In the event that the CBP officer needs to verify your admission/participation with your sponsoring school or program, it is strongly recommended that you have the name and telephone number of your foreign student advisor available. In the event you arrive during non-business hours (evenings, weekends, holidays), you should also have the emergency phone number.

Daytime Contact:
Office of International Programs
(662) 915-7404
After hours, emergency contact:
University Police Department
(662) 915-7234

Failure to comply with U.S. government entry-exit procedures may result in your being denied entry to the United States. Under certain circumstances, the CBP officer may issue a “Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor” Form (I-515A), which authorizes temporary admission into the United States. If you are admitted with the Form I-515A, you must work with your program sponsor or international advisor to submit proper documentation without delay.

I-94 Arrival/ Departure Record

The I-94 is the Arrival / Departure Record, in either paper or electronic format and serves as an official record of where and when non-U.S. citizens entered the country. It also gives the classification and the date by which the visitor may stay.  Most Arrival/Departure records are electronically created and must be printed by the foreign visitor after arrival.  Those entering by land are still provided a paper form and generally the CBP Officer attaches it to the visitor’s passport. It is important to verify that your I-94 information is correct and to print out this record after your arrival. To access the I-94, follow the instructions at: