Travel for New International Students

In order to enter the US, an F-1 student must have the following documents:

  1. A valid passport
  2. A valid F-1 visa
  3. Initial form I-20

Once your F-1 Visa has been approved, you should arrange your travel in order to arrive on campus prior to the program start date. You may arrive in the United States up to 30 days prior to the program start date listed on your form I-20. Make sure that you have already confirmed your attendance with our office and made housing arrangements prior to your arrival. Even if you have friends or relatives who plan to meet you and bring you to our campus, please make us aware of your plans.

Prepare for Travel

As you prepare for travel, check again to be sure that all your travel documents – your passport, your visa, your form I-20, etc. – are correct. Keep all your documents together and on your person (not in your luggage). You will be asked to present them all again at the port of entry. Do not make your travel arrangements until you actually obtain your visa. Plan to enter the US no more than 30 days prior to the start date indicated on your I-20. If you attempt to enter prior to that date you will be sent back home. Be sure to allow several hours between your initial arrival in the US and your connecting flights. You may be delayed at the port of entry even if all your documents are in order.

As you plan your travel to the US, keep in mind that you must confirm your attendance with the Office of International Student Services. If you plan to live on campus, you must Apply for Housing prior to leaving for the US. You may be allowed to move-in early, but you must submit an Early Arrival Request with Residence Life.

The best way to arrive is by flying into Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport or by using Amtrak with Springfield, Illinois as your final destination.

At the Port of Entry (POE)

  • At the port of entry, present your valid passport with the F-1 visa stamp and the valid form I-20. It is also a good idea to carry the financial documents you presented during your visa interview and official letter you have received from UIS.
  • A United States Customs and Immigration Service (USCIS) official will review your documents and assign you a record of admissions known as an I-94 number. You will not be given a physical I-94 number; rather you will be given instructions about how to access your number online.
  • The USCIS official will stamp your passport or I-20 with an admission stamp. This stamp is annotated with the date, the class of admission and your duration of status.
  • The USCIS official will then return your documents to you and you are free to enter the United States.

You’ve Arrived!

This short video provided by US Customs and Border Protection is helpful to understanding the process once you enter the United States.

In addition to the information provided, please see the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement site for specific travel information and recommendations.