When you arrive at the US border, you will need to be prepared to pass through Customs before you are given permission to enter the country. Students arriving by air will go through these steps at the first airport they land in that is inside the US, regardless of if you have a connecting flight to another US city. Students arriving by car will go through this process in a checkpoint before crossing into the US. All individuals entering the US will be given a declarations form to complete, where you report certain kinds of items that you are bringing into the US. Please complete this form before arriving at the border.
Please remember that students entering the US in J-1 status for the first time can only enter up to 30 days before the DS-2019 start date!
You can read over the details below to learn more about what to expect when you arrive in the US, and can also watch a video summary of the arrival process on the CBP website.
Step 1: Document Inspection
Before you can collect your luggage in the airport, you will need to pass through the first stage of Customs. You will need to present your immigration documents to a Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer, who will review your documents and ask about your plans for your stay in the US. You will also have brief fingerprints taken, and a photograph taken. This process usually lasts no more than 2-3 minutes per person.
Students with an J-1 visa should be prepared to show the following:
- J-1 Visa
- I-901 SEVIS fee receipt
Please be careful not to pack these documents in your checked luggage!
Step 2: Baggage Checkpoint
After passing through the initial inspection with your documents, you can collect your baggage in the airport. You will pass through one more inspection station, where you will present your declaration form. This form shows any sensitive items that you are bringing into the US. Please avoid bringing in items from the list of restricted items, such as perishable food items, weapons and large amounts of cash. Officers may choose to inspect your luggage, but often will only ask a few questions from your declarations form and allow you to exit the airport.
I-94 Entry Record
Once you successfully enter the US, you will have an electronic record of your entry recorded in the Department of Homeland Security’s database. You do NOT have to take any action while entering the US concerning this form, but you can access your entry record after your entry at https://i94.cbp.dhs.gov/I94/request.html.
Your I-94 record indicates the kind of status you have in the US, and how long you can remain in the US. You can read more information on the I-94 document here.
Reaching UMBC from Area Airports
For more information on reaching UMBC after arriving in the US from nearby airports, please review the information here: Airports near UMBC.
If you need any emergency assistance upon your arrival at UMBC, please contact the UMBC Police at 410-455-5555.
Tips for smooth travel
You can take steps to make sure your entry to the US is as smooth an experience as possible.
- Do not pack your immigration documents in your checked luggage – make sure to carry them in your carry-on luggage.
- Plan your flights appropriately – if you will need a connecting flight after you first land in the US, remember that you will need to go through Customs first, which can often take 1-2 hours if the process is smooth. Book a second flight that gives you plenty of time to get through customs first! You can see average time required to pass through customs at different airports and checkpoints here.
- Don’t arrive to the US too early – remember that the first time you enter the US in J-1 status, you can only arrive up to 30 days before your DS-2019 start date
- Review the restricted items list before packing, to make sure you don’t unintentionally bring any restricted items to the US