Port of Entry
A Port of Entry is the airport in the US where your flight lands first. For example, suppose your university is in Boston. But your flight will probably first arrive at an international air port (such as New York). The air port in New York is called as your Port of Entry. From New York you will catch a domestic connecting flight to Boston.
The process of entering the US
- When you are still in the aircraft, right before you land at the US Port of Entry, the flight attendant will hand you two forms:
- The first form is the departure / arrival record (I-94) form. You need to fill out this form.
- The second form is the US Custom declaration form. You also need to fill out this form and sign it. By signing this form, you declare to the US customs all the items and the amount of money that you are bringing with you to the US
- Upon arrival at the US Port of Entry, you will be interviewed by the immigration / customs officer. You don’t have to worry about this. The immigration officer basically just needs to confirm that you have all your immigration documents, such as passport, I-20 / DS-2019, admission letter, and I-94, and that you are coming to the US legally. The officer may ask you some questions such as the reason for your visit to the US, or which school (college / university) you are going to attend. If he is satisfied with your answers, the officer will take your fingerprints. After that, the officer will stamp your passport, attach part of the I-94 form to your passport and stamp it as well. The retained I-94 form is just a small piece of paper, but is as important as your other immigration documents. You should never lose it.
Remember that though you may have all the correct documents and the visa, the immigration officers still have the right to deny you the permission to enter the US. Please do not panic during this process, be confident and don't do any suspicious activity. If you do anything suspicious, you might be asked to step out for detailed interrogation. It is always wise to keep contact number of your college authorities (such as the International Student Office) so that you can call them if you are in any trouble and then they can speak with the immigration officers.
- After the interview you may proceed to claim your baggage. If you do not receive all your baggage, please do not panic. Many times it happens that your luggage does not arrive with you. This is because the airlines has probably misplaced it during changing the flights. You should go to your airlines' office in the airport and file a complaint form. You will be asked to provide a phone number and address where the luggage should be sent (you can provide the contact info of the International Student Office or any of your friends at your university). Your luggage will be mailed to this address. When you file the complaint, you will receive a number which you can call to check the status of your luggage. If you are not fortunate enough, the airlines probably had lost your luggage. In this extreme case, the airlines will mail you a check that is more or equivalent to the US dollar worth of your luggage.
- After you get all your belongings, you should hand in the US Custom declaration form to the customs officer.
- Then you may leave the airport or transfer to the domestic terminal for your connection flight. If you have to catch a connecting flight, make sure you know the next gate or terminal (check with the airlines' information center if you are confused)
Things to do after you arrive at your final destination
- First claim your baggage
- Call the person who is going to pick you up from the airport and let him know about your arrival
- Coordinate with him / her as to where he is going to pick you up
- Check out the 'Things to Do - After Arrving in USA' section for further things to do