I have received several queries from students who will be coming to the United States this year. I have tried to take out some frequently asked questions from many students and wish to share the answer for that. If you have any last minute questions before coming to the United States, please use the comment box below to ask your questions. I would reply to it immediately. Here are some popular questions asked.
Q: What can I bring when I come there, and what not?
A: Below is a consolidated list of things to bring. Remember to maintain your baggage within the weight limits as required by the airlines you travel. Otherwise you may have to pay huge sum after you arrive here (at the port of entry). Usually, the limit is 23 kg (50 pounds to be exact) each, in two suitcases, and 8 kg in a cabin bag. (There are fixed standards for the size of this bag too!) It is always recommended that you should check with the airline authorities to know about particular luggage limitations, since these are frequently changed by several regulations.
Remember always: BE CAREFUL with ALL your documents all through your travel.
The following documents are quite important for a peaceful stay in the U.S.A: ·
- Original Form I-20.
- Original Passport with valid F-1 Visa.
- Original Form I-94 (Do not ever remove it, it is stapled to your passport! This document is more important than the passport itself!).
- Demand drafts, Travelers’ Checks, and currency.
- Any sealed documents that the US Consulate gave you.
- Other important documents, such as previous academic records.
- Vaccination Certificate. Letter of admission/financial aid (if applicable)
You must keep them with you at all times during the flight. Also, make copies of the relevant documents and keep one set at home. Carry one set and the originals with you along with essentials including a pair of clothes in your carry-bag in case the luggage is delayed at the airport.
Q: I plan to get my mobile phone from India. Is that advisable?
A: Do not plan to bring your mobile phones here! Please be informed that not all mobile phones from India work here since the operating frequency might not be supported! Also, in the USA, prepaid mobile is a lot expensive, and limited, option, while post-paid plans are generally available with decent and state-of-the-art phones for low cost or for free! In any case, getting a mobile in India is not recommended. To be eligible for a post-paid mobile connection which does not need a deposit, you will need to have sufficient credit history. You can get a mobile phone on a senior’s or a relative’s Social Security Number (SSN) and later transfer the phone when you build your own credit.
Another option would be to get a credit card as soon as possible and do all your purchases on it for one month. After you pay your first month bill, you should be able to get a mobile (without any deposit) on your own SSN. You can check whether you need a deposit by trying to order a phone online by filling out all the required details. It will inform you if you need to pay a deposit. If your order is accepted, then you do not need a deposit.
Q: My travel agent mentions “port of entry” all the time. What is it anyway?
A: The first place you land at in your destination country is called the “port of entry”. Here, you check out all your baggage. (You would not need to check your bags anywhere before the port of entry, once you board an outbound flight from India. Your baggage follows you without your intervention, only till the port of entry.) Even if your bags are checked until a later destination, your bags must be claimed in your port of entry without fail. You would face the Department of Homeland Security/Immigration/Customs authorities at the port of entry.
You would need to go through some major formalities here, like the customs check of baggage, getting the Form I-20 stamped, getting fingerprinted, etc. You will receive instructions regarding other formalities while in the plane before you reach the port of entry. (Listen attentively! And, if you do not receive any instructions on how to fill the forms, ask co-passengers and/or the flight attendants.) You may have to wait at the port of entry for a few hours for your connecting flight to your destination. See that there is a minimum gap of 4-5 hours before your connecting flight out of the port of entry, to be on safer side. Formalities at the port of entry consume more time than normal, with many students landing around this time of the year.
Hence, plan properly rather than miss your connecting flight and cause trouble and tension to yourself and others. Remember to carry your baggage all by yourself (not literally, of course) from your port of entry to your final destination. You may have to spend $1 to $3 for a cart/trolley (Smart-Carte, it is usually branded as) at the port of entry – have $1 currency notes handy.
Q: What is this Immigration Clearance at the port of entry?
A: The first thing you need to go through at the port of entry, after landing, is the immigration and customs clearance, after which you may board a domestic flight to reach your final destination. Before getting down at your port of entry, while you are still in the plane, you will be given two forms to fill up – Form I-94 (a long, white form) and a customs declaration form. Please keep the Form I-94 document very safe. It is more important than your passport, and you are required to keep it safe as long as you are in the U.S.A.
On alighting from the plane, you may ask people or follow signs to get to the Immigration Clearance. Keep handy your passport, and the customs clearance form and the Form I-94 that you filled inside the plane. Generally, you do not have to declare anything. (That is, you write that you are getting dutiable goods of “zero” value; of course, if you are getting any dutiable goods, declare, and if you are not sure, ask someone.) Once you hand over the customs clearance form before reaching the counter for Immigration Clearance, keep your Form I-20 handy, along with your Form I-94 and the passport. There can be a long queue at the Immigration Clearance counter.
If you do not have a lot of time for your next flight, request the people in the queue or the Department of Homeland Security staff at the queues – you may be able to bypass the queue. (If you are a group of people, it is, of course, not fair to ask to let the whole group by pass!) At the counter, present your passport, Form I-20, and Form I-94. Both the Forms shall be duly stamped and returned to you. Only one part of the Form I-94 will be returned, and this is the part of the Form that you need to carefully keep with you until you leave U.S.A! You might be asked some questions about what things you are bringing, etc. Do not lie. Give factual information to the Immigration Officer. Remember to identify, collect, and check out your baggage at the port of entry.
You might essentially need your Passport, Admission Letter, Form I-20, Form I-94 (after you receive it), and Vaccination Certificate (issued by your doctor) when you disembark at the port of entry. Keep them all handy, on your person. It is safe to carry by yourself your cash and monetary instruments (drafts, checks, etc.).
Q: Now, how do I make a phone call?! Is there someplace in the airport that I can call from?
A: All airports have public telephones at various locations. You would need money in small change (coins) to make a phone call. If you have currency notes, you can probably get some change in any store in the airport or at counters that sell foreign exchange. Some airports also have wall-mounted machines that give you coins if you deposit currency notes – look around, or ask someone. Even if it might cost you a bit, please understand that you would save a lot more money (see above) if you call! If you have friends/family in the U.S.A, you may ask them to buy you a calling card for calling within the United States, and ask them for information on using the same to place a call. Remember to get the calling card before you leave India, and carry the details of the calling card with your essential documents (and do not just leave it stored in an email!)