What to Expect at Port of Entry in USA for F1 and H1B Visa?

Traveling to USA for the first time will be overwhelming and you will be anxious.

This article will guide what to expect in port of entry in USA  for F1 and H1B visa holders.

Watch the following video to learn about what to expect during your Port of Entry

Typically after your flight lands, you will

  • clear immigration
  • collect your bags
  • clear customs check
  • Walk out of the airport ( if port of entry is final destination)
  • Go to next  terminal/gate for connecting flight
    • you have to check-in the bags again

Immigration Check

Have the following document ready for immigration check

  • Passport
  • I-20 for F1 students
  • I-797 approval for H1B
  • I94 is now electronic
  • Customs Declaration Form

Make sure you know where you are going. You are *required* to provide an address in USA.

If your apartment is not fixed, then you can provide your Graduate School or International School office address.

Update Based on Comment Below

After landing in Port of Entry (if final destination is different from your port of entry)

  • you will clear the immigration
  • get a baggage cart (free or $5 per cart)
  • then collect the bags ( all 3)
  • walk through customs ( hand over the stamped customs form to CBP officer)
  • find  Check-in counter to check the bags for domestic flight
  • Your connecting flight check-in should be located right after you  come through the customs. If you can’t find the  counter, speak-up and ask for help.

You may have to go to another terminal to get to domestic connecting flight.

For instance in New York, international flight will come to a terminal. Then you  clear immigration, pick-up your bags. Clear customs. Exit the ares, check-in the bags for domestic flight.

Then you will have to go to another terminal. Then clear security check, go to the gate to board the next flight.

It can take upto 2 hours sometimes to clear the immigration and customs.

Next –  15 last minute tips for flight travel to USA

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  1. Do I have to enter US from a flight originating from my own country? Like, I am going to be attending San Jose State University(SJSU), and I have a brother in Canada, so I wanted to stay with him for a week and then go to San Jose. I have my F1 visa with SJSU. Will this cause any problem at the port of entry?

  2. Hello,

    Date of birth in my SEVIS I 901 confirmation is incorrect. I gave the wrong year.

    My visa is approved but would this be a problem at port of entry. If so can you please tell how to correct this?


  3. Hi, i am going to wichita state univ, can i go to visit my brother for a week and then go to the univ?? what address should i mention in the I 94?? please help !!

  4. Hi HSB,

    In case of a through check in what do we do with our checked in baggages. e.g. I am travelling via Mumbai-Brussels-Newark-Greenville Spartanburg (Jet Airways till Newark and United till GSP). Airline says they will do a through check-in in Mumbai. So do i collect my baggage for Customs check at Newark and then checkin again for US domestic flight.

    1. You are correct. Check your bags in Mumbai. Take your documents and carry on bag with you.
      After flight lands in Newark (EWR)
      – you will clear the immigration
      – get a baggage cart (free or $5 per cart)
      – then collect the bags ( all 3)
      – walk through customs ( hand over the stamped customs form to CBP officer)
      – Find United Check-in counter.
      – Check in the bags ( collect boarding pass if you already don’t have one)

      It would take about 2 to 3 hours after Flight lands to checking to Next flight. Sometimes longer if there is more people in immigration.

      Hope this helps.

      1. Yeah that clarifies it … HSB Thanks for the replies … and great work on the Travel Orientation Page … Keep them coming

          1. Currently I am working in Pune … I will be leaving for Clemson in aug with full scholarship…

          2. Good luck. I work with several folks who are Clemson Graduates. Don’t forget to take a tour of BMW factory.

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