Entering the United States

To enter the United States you will need the following documents:

  • UM-Flint I-20 Certificate of Eligibility for Nonimmigrant F-1 Student Status
  • A valid F-1 visa* (the visa stamp in your passport) issued by the United States embassy/consulate in your country of origin
  • A valid passport
  • Your SEVIS fee receipt

Please be advised that you may not enter the United States more than 30 days prior to the start date in section 5 on your I-20.

*Canadian citizens do not need US visas.


The US Department of Homeland Security (DHS) requires a fee of $200 for all new F-1 applicants to cover the costs of the operation of the Student and Exchange Visitor Information System (SEVIS) program. 

The following list contains links to more detailed information about the SEVIS I-901 fee:

  • Information on SEVIS and required fees and instructions are available on the US Immigration and Customs Enforcement website. 
  • Students who are applying for initial form I-20 must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee.  A new Form I-20 issued on or after September 1, 2004, must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. You must pay the SEVIS I-901 fee every time you start a new I-20 program
  • You must have a Form I-20 before you pay the fee. You can schedule a visa application interview before you make the SEVIS I-901 fee payment. The SEVIS I-901 fee payment should be completed at least three days prior to your visa interview
  • At the website above, you can pay the SEVIS I-901 fee with a credit card. It is helpful to be at a computer with a printer so you can print the receipt directly after the transaction. You should carry the receipt with you to the visa interview and when entering the United States
  • Any continuing student or exchange visitor who received an initial Form I-20 dated prior to September 1, 2004, has not completed their program, and has maintained status does not need to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. A change of level or transfer is considered a continuation of your current program
  • Even if you receive a Form I-20 from your school with updated information printed on or after September 1, 2004, you do not need to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee. Payment is determined by the original issuance date
  • Spouses and minor children of students (F-2 status) do not have to pay the SEVIS I-901 fee

Departing and Re-entering the United States

When you re-enter the United States, you should expect more thorough screening procedures at airports and other ports of entry. Your identity and the validity of your visa and immigration document I-20 will be checked against US law enforcement databases.

You may also be subject to in-depth questioning about your immigration status, travel history, the purpose of your visit, background, other issues, and, potentially, inspection of personal belongings and luggage, photocopying of documents, etc. You can potentially be delayed by a “secondary inspection” if you do not have proper documents, had some previous immigration problem or error, or simply fall under certain criteria or circumstance.

During these entry procedures, it is best to be honest, patient, and courteous with all US government officials, even if they are not so with you. Remain patient and answer all questions clearly. If you do not understand a question, make sure that you ask for clarification before answering. Omission or misrepresentation of information can cause serious problems.