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International Student Affairs

Arrival in the United States

Knowing what to expect and being well prepared will make entering the U.S. an easy process. If you are arriving by air, you will receive two Customs and Border Protection (CBP) forms on the airplane for you to complete prior to arrival: the Arrival-Departure Record (CBP Form I-94) and the CBP Declaration Form (CBP Form 6059B). Individuals arriving at a land border crossing will be given CBP Form I-94 and CBP Form 6059B in the inspection office.

When you arrive, you must have all your immigration papers with you. If you are a dual citizen or a permanent resident of the United States, you will only need to show your U.S. passport. If you are a citizen of another country, you must show the immigration officer these documents:

  • A valid passport
  • I-20 (for F-1 students) or DS-2019 (for J-1 students)
  • Visa from a U.S. Consulate
  • Letter of acceptance to Hofstra
  • Documentation proving your financial resources

If everything is in order, the immigration inspector will stamp the date of your arrival on your Form I-94 and staple it into your passport. The inspector will also stamp your I-20 (for F-1 students) or DS-2019 (for J-1 students) and return it to you. If you encounter any problems while you are being inspected by Immigration, please contact International Student Affairs at (516) 463-6796. Your Form I-94, Form I-20 (or DS-2019), visa and passport are all critical immigration documents, and it is your responsibility to keep them in a safe place. 

Helpful Hints

•    Do not pack your Form I-20 (for F1 students) or your DS-2019 (for J1 students) in your checked-baggage. You should pack all of your immigration documents, financial support, and admission letter in your carry-on luggage. You should also make copies and keep these in a separate location.
•    On the I-94 Card, write your name exactly as it appears in your entry visa and on your DS-2019 or I-20. Do not throw this card away. This card is an important document that verifies your status in the United States. 
•    Only use the Form I-20 or DS-2019 for the school you plan to attend.
•    The Form I-20 or DS-2019 is a very important document.  Do not lose it and do not let it expire.
•    Do not enter the U.S. on a visitor's visa or a visa waiver if your intention is to begin your program of study during the trip.


Form I-515A

If you arrive at a U.S. port of entry without all of your required documents or with unsigned or missing information, the Customs and Border Protection (CBP) officer may deny your entry into the U.S.. As an alternative, the officer may issue you a Form I-515A, which allows you temporary entry into the United States for 30 days.  If you receive a Form I-515A, the first thing you should do is come to the International Student Affairs office with all your immigration documentation. We will work with you to make sure you have everything in order and help you submit your paperwork to SEVP to convert your 30 day entry limit to duration of status (D/S).


Information for Canadian Students

An entry visa is not required for Canadian citizens, but they must  make sure to receive the Form I-20 (F-1) or DS-2019 (J-1) and pay the SEVIS fee before entering the U.S. Upon entry, the passport, the Form I-20 or DS-2019, proof of financial support for at least one year, the admission letter, and receipt of the SEVIS fee payment must be presented to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection officer. It is important to present these documents in order to enter the country as a student and not a tourist (see below).


Can I enter the U.S. as a tourist?

Important! Do not enter the United States (U.S.) with a B-2 Visitor's Visa to begin your program of study! Wait for your Form I-20 or DS20-19, apply for the visa, and come into the U.S. on your F-1 or J-1 status. U.S. federal law prohibits visitors for business or pleasure (B-1/B-2) to engage in study. While you may qualify to apply for a change of status to F-1 if already inside the U.S, there is no guarantee that your application will be approved. International Student Affairs will not help with the change of status process for those who have a B-1/B-2 status.

The Visa Waiver Program (VWP) enables nationals of 36 participating countries to travel to the United States for tourism or business (visitor [B] visa purposes only) for stays of 90 days or less without obtaining a visa. While citizens of these countries are permitted to visit the U.S. without applying for a visa, visits to the U.S. are limited to 90 days. A change of status is not permitted for individuals admitted on the VWP.


Can I study on my current immigration status?

Please contact International Student Affairs at (516) 463-6796 or international{at}hofstra.edu if you have questions about studying on your current immigration status and want to explore your options.


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