Arriving in the U.S.: Immigration Inspection

Customs entry

Upon arrival, you will go through immigration inspection, where your electronic I-94 entry record will be created. Be sure to have your passport, immigration document, and the rest of the recommended items below with you. Do not pack them in your checked luggage.


Documents to Have On-Hand

With all of the COVID-19 related changes to both U.S. immigrations and the operation of U.S. universities, we want you to have all the documents that you may need in coming or returning to the U.S. When you arrive at the U.S. port of entry, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer will certainly want to see the first three documents but may ask to see other documents on this list. The officer may also ask you to answer additional questions about your study plans. Documents #6-10 on this list relate to the current situation. Please review them.

Important Note:
Carry these documents with you - don't put them in your checked luggage
  1. Valid Passport: must be valid at least 6 months into the future at the time of admission.
  2. Valid U.S. Visa (Canadian citizens do not need a visa)
  3. Your Immigration Document: an I-20 for F-1 status, a DS-2019 for J-1 status, an I-797 approval notice for H-1B holders.
    If we sent you a new electronic I-20 this summer, please print that updated I-20 and carry that with the original that we issued you initially.
  4. Receipt from paying the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) fee: if you are an F or J visa holder.
  5. Copy of your admissions letter and proof of funds: while you may not be asked for it, it is advisable for new students to carry these documents as well. Proof of funds can include the same documents you submitted to obtain your I-20 or DS-2019, such as bank statements and scholarship letters.
  6. NEW: Yale Fall 2021 Letter: This letter, updated on April 13th and issued by OISS, explains that Yale is open and will be operating for full-time study this fall.
  7. Travelers from Schengen Area, United Kingdom, and Ireland: print off this bulletin from the U.S. Customs and Border Protection which notes that F-1 visa holders are able to travel.
  8. Travelers from Canada: if you will be traveling over the land border, print off this page which clarifies “individuals traveling to attend educational institutions” are considered “essential travelers”.
  9. Traveler Health Form: If you are entering the U.S. at one of the New York airports, you will need to complete the Traveler Health Form and present it at the port of entry. If you are planning to spend time in New York prior to traveling to New Haven, please refer to this website. If you are entering the U.S. at other locations please check the requirements for that state.
  10. Negative COVID Test Results: Effective January 26, 2021, all air passengers arriving to the US from another country are required to get tested for COVID-19 no more than 3 days before their flight departs and to provide proof of the negative result or documentation of having recovered from COVID-19 to the airline before boarding the flight. This rule applies regardless of vaccination status. For more information on this requirement, see the CDC’s Frequently Asked Questions.

What to Expect at the U.S. Port of Entry

Your visa and other immigration documents are evidence of your eligibility to apply for admission in a particular visa status at a U.S. Port of Entry.

Customs and Border Protection (CBP) is part of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and is the government agency that controls admission to the United States. The CBP officer makes the final decision on your admission to the U.S. in a particular status and determines how long you may stay based on your documents.


Secondary Inspection

Most Yale students and scholars will clear U.S. immigration after your documents are reviewed by a CBP officer. However, a few may be referred to another officer to verify your student status or for additional questioning. This is referred to as “secondary inspection”. Although a referral to secondary inspection can be intimidating and make you feel anxious, there is usually little cause for alarm. Be aware that it can take an hour or two to complete this inspection process.

If the CBP officer has questions that can be answered by OISS, ask the officer if they would like to call OISS for confirmation. During office hours, you can call your adviser directly or the general office number, (203) 432-2305. After hours call the Yale Police Department at (203) 432-4400 who will immediately call the OISS director or associate director.


Get to New Haven

Find out how to get from the airport to your new home!