Traveling to the US on an F1 Visa

Congratulations! You have successfully received an F-1 Student Visa. The next step is to travel to the United States and arrive at the college campus you’ve selected. Remember, traveling to the United States on a student visa involves several steps and considerations. Following are a few tips I’ve picked up along the way.  

1. Pay Attention to Dates

First off, make sure of the date your F-1 visa permits you to enter the United States.  Students on F-1 visas can arrive in the US no earlier than 30 days before the program start date listed on your Form I-20 or DS-2019.  It is important to plan your travel so it falls within the dates allowed.  

2. Plan Your Flight Wisely, and What to Do After Landing at Your Port of Entry

When considering flights, find the international airport closest to your destination school. Planning as direct a flight as possible to that airport can help you avoid time-consuming layovers and can make travel much easier overall.

Once your plane touches down at its first U.S. destination (your port of entry), you will need to go through passport control and visa inspection. You must have ready hard copies of your Form I-20; your school acceptance letter; your bank statement (to show proof of funding); your F-1 visa; and your passport. Always ensure that you’re well organized before going through passport control to ensure a smooth arrival process.

3. Arrival at Your Final Destination

It may seem to be too early to start thinking about your arrival at your final destination, but it’s best to have a firm plan for how you will get to your destination school from the airport before you leave home. If you’re lucky, a family member or friend may live nearby who could pick you up, but if not, a good first step is downloading a rideshare app (e.g., Uber, Lyft) that is available in your destination town prior to your departure, as well as doing a careful survey of the public transportation options (e.g., buses or trains) that may be available to you. a plan in place before you leave your home country.  If you do plan to use public transportation, consult the destination airport’s website to learn what options are available to you.

Once you’re finally on campus, congratulate yourself—you made it! Be sure to check in with the school’s international student services office as soon as you can to let them know of your arrival. They’ll be delighted to see you and hear all about your travels, and there, you can determine what next steps need to be completed so you can successfully begin classes.