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Expectations at Port of Entry with US Customs and Border Protection Officer

Upon arriving a United States port of entry, a US Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will determine your admissibility to the United States. 

Review: US Customs and Border Protection Guidelines


When I Arrive a Port of Entry:

At a primary inspection booth, a CBP officer will: 

  • Review your immigration documents
  • Scan your passport or take a photo
  • Take your fingerprints, if applicable 
  • Ask questions regarding your purpose and intent
  • Ask if you have anything to declare

Common questions you may be asked: 

  • Which school will you be enrolling? 
  • Why will you be enrolling at that school?
  • Which program will you be pursuing? 

If the CBP officer has any concerns, questions or the passenger needs routine verification, the CBP officer may direct you to a secondary inspection. 

A secondary inspection is a more detailed inspection to determine admissibility. It allows the CBP officer to conduct additional research to verify information without causing delays for other arriving passengers. Carry the contact information of your Designated School Official (DSO) in case requested by the CBP officer. 

At a secondary inspection booth, a CBP officer will: 

  • Conduct law enforcement data base queries
  • Ask questions about purpose and intent of travel to the US
  • Request additional documentation or contact the DSO for additional information
  • Search your luggage and/ or personal belongings

Keep in mind, most secondary processing is administrative in nature.

Students who forget their Form I-20 may be granted temporary entry to the US if the CBP officer issues the Form I-515A. The Form I-515A has a limited validity period of 30 days from the date of issuance by the CBP officer. If you received this Form I-515A, please contact the International Student and Scholar Services (ISSS) immediately.

To learn more about this Form I-515A, visit What is a Form I-515A?


To Prepare for my Entry:

  • Be sure to have a valid passport, a signed Form I-20, valid F-1 visa and evidence of financial support. Do not keep these documents in your checked baggage.
  • Review carefully all prohibited and restricted items and do not bring them
  • Carry the contact information for your DSO, including a 24-hour emergency contact information of your school.
  • Review CBP's website for international visitors to learn more about international visitors travel resources

Resources