Entering the U.S.

Center for International and Cultural Education

Please read this carefully before you leave, and contact Jeff Anderson, Assistant Director of International Student and Scholar Services, if you have questions.

You must bring the following documents for your arrival to the U.S:

  • Passport valid for at least 6 months from the date you enter the U.S.
  • Valid F-1 or J-1 visa
  • Form I-20 or DS-2019 from Gustavus Adolphus College
  • Documentation of funds sufficient to cover your first year at Gustavus (you can use the same documentation you used to apply for your visa)

It is important to keep the above documents with you or in your carry-on bag, and not check them into your luggage.

If your first stop in the U.S. is at the Minneapolis / St. Paul International Airport (MSP), you will go through immigration and customs there. If your first stop in the U.S. is in another city, you will normally go through immigration and customs in that city, and then go to your connecting flight to Minneapolis / St. Paul. It is best to plan for more than an hour between connecting flights, as going though U.S. immigration and customs can take an hour or more. 

If you have more than $10,000 (cash, travelers' checks, bank check, money orders, etc.), you must report that to U.S. immigration when you arrive. You must report that on Form FinCen 105 and give it to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer when you arrive. We recommend that you download and complete Form FinCen 105 before you travel. If not, you can ask for Form FinCen 105 on the airplane. There is no limit to the amount of currency a traveler can bring into or take out of the U.S. But if you bring more than $10,000 and do not report it, the penalties can be severe. You can lose all of the money. If you bring a check, cash or other funds to pay your Gustavus tuition, make sure to report it. If you bring less than $10,000, you do not have to report it. It is generally not recommended to bring a lot of cash, as there is always a risk of it being lost or stolen.

After your flight lands in the United States, you will be inspected according to US-VISIT (U.S. Visitor and Immigrant Status Indicator Technology Program) procedures, which consist of the following:

  • A U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Officer will review your documents (passport, visa, I-20 or DS-2019) and may ask questions about your stay in the U.S.
  • The CBP Officer will scan your fingers with an inkless electronic fingerprint scanner, and take a digital photo of you.
  • The biographic and fingerprint data will be used to verify your identity and will be compared against various government databases.
  • The CBP Officer will either admit you to the U.S. or send you to “secondary inspection” to conduct additional inquiries based on the verification results.
  • The CBP Officer will also have access to the information entered into the SEVIS (Student and Exchange Visitor Information System) database when your I-20 or DS-2019 was created. Your I-20 or DS-2019 has an identification number that is used to locate your SEVIS record in the database.

Be positive. Sometimes the CBP Officer will seem friendly, and sometimes unfriendly or rude. The CBP Officer may ask you questions. It is important to maintain your composure, to not argue with the CBP Officer, and to answer questions honestly. You can be concise in your answers, without appearing to be uncooperative. There is pressure on the CBP Officer to not make any mistakes. It may help for you to keep in your mind that there should be no reason you would not be admitted to the U.S. if you have all of the required documents, and to maintain a positive attitude even if there are delays. 

When you are admitted to the U.S., the immigration officer may stamp your I-20 or DS-2019 and your passport, or they may not. After you are here, I will make sure the immigration officer made the proper notations, and I can answer any questions you have about what those documents are for, and anything else related to immigration.

Travel dates. U.S. immigration laws allow you to enter the U.S. up to 30 days before the program start date on your I-20 or DS-2019 (the first day of international student orientation). Some students arrive early to visit friends or travel, before coming to Gustavus. J-1 exchange students may stay in the U.S. for up to 30 days (grace period) after the program end date on your DS-2019. F-1 degree students may stay in the U.S. for up to 60 days (grace period) after the program end date on your I-20. Arriving or departing outside of those dates is considered a violation of status and a serious immigration problem.

Visa expiration. The only purpose of your F-1 or J-1 visa is to apply for entry to the U.S. You may remain in the U.S. after your F-1 or J-1 visa expires, if you are maintaining your status by continuing to be enrolled as a student and departing before the end of your authorized period of stay (I-20 end date plus 60 day grace period / DS-2019 end date plus 30 day grace period).