Port of Entry & Arrival

Plan your arrival

F-1 and J-1 students may not arrive to the U.S. more than 30 days before the start date on your I-20/DS-2019.  If you decide to come earlier than this, you will enter as a tourist and must leave the United States so that you may re-enter in the correct F-1/J-1 status no more than 30 days before the start date listed on your document.


Upon inspection, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will ask for several documents, these are:

  • Northwestern-issued I-20 or DS-2019;
  • A valid passport (valid six-months into the future);
  • A valid F-1 or J-1 visa stamp (placed inside the passport at the consulate or embassy abroad);

These documents should be kept with you at all times. Be prepared to present these documents to CBP upon arrival (this will happen before you have access to your checked luggage, so please plan accordingly).

Entry stamp specifications

It is very important that this entry is recorded correctly, and you may need to confirm with the CBP officer your entrance in F-1 or J-1 student status.

  • The entry stamp should indicate a written "F-1" or "J-1" depicting the recorded entry status.
  • The entry stamp should also note "D/S," which stands for "Duration of Status." Duration of Status (D/S) indicates you have been admitted to the U.S. in F-1 or J-1 status for the duration of your academic program. This period of time is indicated on the I-20 and DS-2019. If you are not provided a "D/S" on entry, ask the CBP officer for clarification.