Your F-1 visa entitles you to come and go in the United States as often as you wish for the "duration of [your] studies" as long as you maintain your lawful visa status and carry current, authorized documents.
Each time you depart the U.S., be certain you have the following documents safely stored in your carry-on baggage:
- Your passport and U.S. visa
- Your current I-20 with a valid travel authorization on page 2. (Travel authorizations are valid for 12 months. If you need a new one, come to OIS, Fen 204, in advance of your departure from campus.)
- Your most recent I-94 arrival form (you may be asked for this as you depart the U.S.)
Remember that if your flight will land in another country on its way to your final destination you may require a "transit visa." If you do not have a valid transit visa, you will likely NOT be allowed on the flight.
When you re-enter the U.S., you will go through Customs. Keep the following in mind:
Each time you re-enter the U.S., remember that you must print a new I-94 arrival form. Deliver a copy to OIS, Fen 204, and keep another copy with your passport.
SPECIFIC INFORMATION FOR STUDENTS ENTERING THE UNITED STATES FOR THE FIRST TIME
Toward the end of your air travel, the airline personnel may give you several forms to complete for the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. It is forbidden to bring certain items into the U.S. (for example, fruits, vegetables, drugs, certain herbs, firearms). You will be asked to report (“declare”) the value of the items you are bringing into the U.S. as well as all food and money you are carrying with you. You may also be asked to report the same information at a computer inside the terminal. That is normal. Simply follow instructions you are given. Answer all questions honestly and do not attempt to hide anything! You will not be in any trouble for answering honestly, but if you fail to disclose something you could be denied entry. Do not be afraid to ask for clarification.
Upon arrival in the U.S., you will be photographed and have your fingerprints taken. Do not worry! You will need to present your passport (with valid F-1 visa), the Form I-20. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement may also ask you to show the copies of the financial documents you submitted to Holy Cross to get your I-20 and/or your Holy Cross Admissions letter. Be sure to carry ALL these documents on your person when you travel to the U.S. Do not pack these documents in suitcases which are checked with baggage, since you must show your documents before you are allowed to claim your bags.
As you are clearing Customs, check your passport and be sure that the official stamps it "F-1 and D/S" - which means you are an F-1 student eligible to remain in the US for the "duration of studies". If they accidentally stamp you with any other visa (e.g., B-1) politely ask that they correct it. This is particularly important for Canadian students.
Customs officials can require you to give them access to your electronics, including text messages and pictures. If you have any images, texts or emails in your phone/tablet that could get you into trouble if law enforcement sees it, I strongly urge you to delete that material before you go to the airport! (As an example, if you have photos of yourself or your friends smoking marijuana, you should delete those photos.)
Possessing or using marijuana or other controlled substances or the equipment to use them ("paraphernalia") is a violation of U.S. federal law. As a visa student, you must obey all federal laws or you risk having your visa canceled, being deported, and/or being banned from the U.S.
If you are detained in “secondary inspection” for any reason, remain calm and do not panic. Since cell phone use is not permitted, politely ask the CBP officer to please phone Holy Cross Public Safety at 508-793-2224 so that we are aware of your delay.