With your Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility and F-1 visa, or DS-2019 and J-1 visa,   you may enter the United States no more than 30 days before the program start date printed on page 1 of the I-20 – Item 5   . If you attempt to arrive more than 30 days before the program start date, you may be refused entry into the United States. (Note:  Canadians will not have a visa in their passports.)

Always carry your documents with you. Do not pack them in your baggage! Do not check the following documents in your baggage. If your baggage is lost or delayed, you will be unable to present the documents at your port of entry. As a result, you may not be able to enter the United States.

  • Your passport, valid for at least six months beyond the date of your expected stay;
  • SEVIS Form I-20 Certificate of Eligibility (F-1), or Form DS-2019 Certificate of Eligibility for Exchange Visitor (J-1) and
  • Paper receipt for the SEVIS fee, Form I-797C.

In addition, it is strongly recommended that you carry with you (on the plane) the following documentation:

  1. Evidence of financial resources, such as department “Letter of Offer” or sponsor funding;
  2. Evidence of student status, such as admission letter, and;
  3. Name and contact information of your “Designated School Official & Emergency Contact”:
    • Reija Shnoro, International Student Program Coordinator: +1-907-474-7583
    • 24-hour emergency contact number at UAF (campus police): 907-474-7721

Proceed to the terminal area for arriving passengers. Have the following documents available for presentation: your passport; SEVIS Form (I-20); and Customs Declaration Form (CF-6059) — this form should be provided to you by airline personnel before your plane lands in the U.S.

All visitors entering the United States must state their reason for wishing to enter the country. You will also be asked to provide information about your final destination.  It is important that you tell the CBP officer that you will be a student.  Be prepared to include the name and address of the school where you will enroll/participate (University of Alaska Fairbanks).

The immigration officer at the port of entry will look at your passport, identification and visa pages, UAF Form I-20 and perhaps your financial documents. Keep any letters from the university available as they may help to answer the immigration officer’s questions. During the immigration officials’ examination of your documents, you will be digitally photographed and fingerprinted. 

Once your inspection is complete, your passport will be stamped and the Customs and Border Protection officer will annotate the stamp with your immigration status (F-1) and “D/S,” which means “Duration of Status.” The officer will update your immigration record in SEVIS. Be sure to verify that the correct immigration status is written in your passport before leaving the custom officer’s station. This is very important!

You will receive an information sheet describing how to access your electronic I-94 arrival/departure record to print a copy for your reference and use as needed.


Secondary inspection requirements

If the CBP officer at the port of entry cannot initially verify your information or if you do not have all of the required documentation, you may be directed to an interview area known as “secondary inspection.” Secondary inspection allows inspectors to conduct additional research in order to verify information without causing delays for other arriving passengers.

The inspector will first attempt to verify your status by using the Student and Exchange and Visitor Information System (SEVIS). If the CBP officer needs to verify information with your school or program, they will ask you for the name and telephone number of the international student advisor at your school. If you arrive during nonbusiness hours (evening, weekends, holidays), you should provide the emergency or nonbusiness hour phone number available: 

24-hour emergency contact number at UAF (campus police): 907-474-7721

The UAF campus police will be able to contact Reija Shnoro or one of the other international student advisors at any time if it is necessary.

Failure to comply with U.S. government entry-exit procedures may result in your being denied entry to the United States. Under certain circumstances, the CBP officer may issue a “Notice to Student or Exchange Visitor” Form (I-515A), which authorizes temporary admission into the United States. If you receive the I-515A entry, bring it to our office without delay. 

Arriving in the United States:

  1. Arrive in Fairbanks!
    Check the important dates page for information on the earliest date you can enter the U.S. on your student visa. Please inform International Programs of your travel plans.

  2. Move in
    Check the important dates page for information on the earliest you can move into on-campus housing. If you arrive before this, be sure to make other arrangements. You can check out this site for information on Fairbanks accommodations: .

  3. Check in with International Programs — You must do this within 10 days of your arrival in the U.S. (Eielson Building, room 215 or 218)

    Make sure you bring with you your:
    • All students
      • Passport
      • Form I-20 or DS-2019
    • Graduate degree-seeking students with departmental funding (RAs or TAs): Bring your RA or TA assistantship letter. We will explain the social security application process and provide an application packet. You must wait 10 days after checking in with International Programs before applying for a social security number.

  4. Check in with your department (degree-seeking students only)
    As soon as possible, make an appointment with your department advisor. Before your appointment, go to and access your student account.

    If you’re not able to visit International Programs within 10 days of your arrival in the U.S., please let us know as soon as possible to make other arrangements.
  5. Go to orientation sessions

  6. Visit UAF Offices
    • Get your PolarExpress card. This will be your UAF student identification card.
      The PolarExpress Office is on the first floor of Signers’ Hall. For more information, visit the PolarExpress website.

    • Set up your UAF electronic student account.
      This account will give you access to your official UAF email account and other web-based student services. Start by visiting and choosing Option 2 or Option 3.

    • Pick up your campus post office box key or sign up for a post office box.
      The UAF Post Office is in the lower level of Constitution Hall.

  7. Pay your tuition and fees
    • Be sure to pay all of your tuition and fees before the Fee Payment Deadline each semester.
    • Exchange/study abroad students: International Programs must review your course list or study program before you pay your fees.

  8. Go to all your classes
    • *Master’s and PhD students, please read the graduate student section, beginning on page 31, before completing these steps.
    • As soon as you arrive
      • Attend orientation
      • Pay your fees online or set up a payment plan
      • Pick up your UAF PolarExpress ID card