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Changes in U.S. Port of Entry for F, M and J Visa Students – Expect Delays

Due to Boston Bombings few weeks back, there are new changes at U.S. port of entry. News is reported in NAFSA and reproduced here.

Based on news accounts, and preliminary contact with the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), it appears that DHS is instituting an interim policy of referring arriving F, M, and J non-immigrants to secondary inspection, to ensure that individuals whose SEVIS records have been terminated are not readmitted without a thorough review of the students’ situation.


Current law requires all arriving travelers to be inspected by U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) at a U.S. port of entry (POE) before being admitted to the United States.

Immigration inspection at a POE consists of two inspections levels: primary and secondary. All arriving visitors pass through primary inspection, where a CBP inspector determines admissibility to the United States by reviewing the results of government database queries, examining travel documents, and conducting a brief interview. If the CBP officer at primary determines that there are no admissibility issues, and any other issues that might have arisen are successfully resolved, then the traveler will be admitted to the United States and permitted to proceed to collect their baggage.

If the CBP inspector cannot determine admissibility in the limited time available in primary inspection, the arriving visitor is referred to secondary inspection, where other CBP officers can take more time to investigate, perform additional information system queries, more thoroughly examine documents, and interview the traveler in greater detail, without delaying the flow of travelers in the primary inspection area.

In the case of individuals tracked in the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS), the status of the traveler’s SEVIS record is relevant to CBP’s decision regarding admissibility to the United States. CBP would ideally be able to see in primary inspection whether a traveler’s SEVIS record has been terminated, and if so, refer the traveler to secondary inspection where a thorough review of the case could be done to determine whether or not the SEVIS record termination is an accurate indication of the traveler’s current status and admissibility.

Although SEVIS is updated with record terminations in real-time, the “lookout” that should be generated in CBP systems as a result of the termination may not be immediately available to CBP systems, and in most cases the workstations in primary inspection do not have direct access to SEVIS itself. DHS plans to bridge this gap by better integrating its information systems, and providing all CBP inspectors with access to SEVIS data.

In the meantime, based on news accounts and preliminary contact with DHS, it appears that DHS has instituted an interim policy of referring all arriving F, M, and J students, including students who have never had a SEVIS record termination, to secondary inspection where SEVIS can be accessed, to ensure that individuals whose SEVIS records have been terminated are not readmitted without a thorough review of the students’ situation.

NAFSA has inquired with the relevant DHS components to verify the details of the procedures, and will update this page as more information becomes available.

Things to consider now

Meanwhile, take into account the following, as you consider how you will notify your F, M, and J community of these procedures:

  • Secondary inspection is not a new creation. Many individuals may already have experienced a referral to secondary inspection during one of their prior entries to the United States. Here is a brief description of secondary inspection on the Study in the States website.
  • An individual referred to secondary inspection should be prepared for the admission process to take significantly longer, and should take this into account when arranging connecting flights and airport pickups.
  • Being prepared with the right documentation can help the process go more smoothly. For example, before leaving and reentering the United States, returning individuals should make sure that their visa is valid, their SEVIS record is in Active status, and their SEVIS form has been properly endorsed with a travel signature. They may also wish to travel with other documentation showing that they are in good academic and SEVIS status. Also see Arrival Procedures for Students or Exchange Visitors on the CBP website, which, even though it has not yet been updated to reflect these new procedures, does provide some helpful information.
  • Anyone reentering who may have had a SEVIS record terminated in the past should be prepared with current documentation and reasoning that establishes their ability to resume their program in the United States.

Reproduced from NAFSA site.

Port of Entry Typiclaly looks like this.

With Secondary Inspection, there will be delays. You could miss the connecting flight due to additional processing in secondary inspection. Plan accordingly.


  1. Sreekumar Menon on May 20, 2013 at 1:43 PM

    Here is an article from the Chronicle of Higher Education. i don’t know if posting it is a copyright violation. If so, Mr. Raghu, please remove it. If not, some of your readers may want to take a look at it.

    • Raghuram Sukumar on May 20, 2013 at 3:35 PM

      Can you post the link.

  2. sangram barge on May 16, 2013 at 4:20 AM

    Hey thanks rajkamalm , i think that was helpful…do you have any idea how much does p-2 visa cost eg if i want to record a song in studio and if that is in USA , HOW much they charge you eg 1 year

    • rajkamalm on May 16, 2013 at 1:59 PM


      I think you need more understanding on how this Visa and the immigration system works. Browse around this website and read a few Visa Interview experiences (thought I don’t think there are any P Visa Interviews in here). Also refer to this site – for further details. I’m not sure about the exact requirements and procedures for P-2 Visa ; that website might help.

      All Visa applications cost more or less the same. Please visit the consulate website of the location where you live to get those details.

      The cost of recording entirely depends on the studio you choose, what type of equipment and a lot of other factors that I am not getting into. Kindly contact the studio that you want to perform for further details. They will be able to give you details on steps to get your P-2 as well.

      Hope that helped! Thanks!



      • sangram barge on May 17, 2013 at 4:56 AM

        thanks a lot , i appreciate your help and time 🙂

  3. sangram barge on May 13, 2013 at 10:48 AM

    Hi raghu , i want to ask a question , what kind of visa is required for artists (singers) to get in USA eg if i am from INDIA

    • rajkamalm on May 15, 2013 at 6:23 AM

      While there is a Visa Category called P-2 for artists/Entertainers, it purely depends on what purpose you go to the US. If you want to go to US to perform in a singing event, you will be given the P-2 Visa. If you are going there on a holiday trip, then you’d need to take a B-2 Visa. If you are going there to do your college (MS/PHd) then you’ll be given a F-1 Visa. So, it depends on why you go there 🙂 ..


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