Firstly, I would like to congratulate all the students who are coming to the United States in this fall 2015. Your hard work and efforts have really payed you to pursue MS in USA. Coming to the United States has always been a mixed feeling for me. Leaving your country and residing in a totally alien country requires lot of adaptation.
Coming to this post, In this post I would like you to provide important travel tips to make your first flight trip to the United States much easier.
Step 1: Online Check In
After you have booked your tickets, always do an online check in which opens up usually 24 hours before your flight. This online check in would save you a lot of time at the airport. You can choose the seats you like and also food and beverages you prefer. Print this ticket and keep it handy.
Step 2: Arriving Early
International Airports are always crowded like hell. Its always a good idea to come to the airport 3 hours before your flight departs. This would also give you enough of time to say goodbyes to your family and friends.
Step 3: Entering International Airport
For entering the International Airport, you require two things in hand; first is your passport and second is your air ticket. It always good to organize yourself and hence its a good option to keep your passport and air ticket in your jacket, purse etc.
Step 4: Finding Your Airline Counter
Once you enter the International Airport, you need to approach to your airline counter. Keep a close eye on the counters, if you have done an online check-in your counter would be separate than the usual counters. Its a good idea to ask the airline officials standing near the counters.
Step 5: Getting your ticket from Counter
Generally there will be a huge line in all the counters. You need to wait patiently for your turn. Once you reach the counter, you need to give them your air ticket, I-20 and passport. They would ask some general questions as to your purpose of visit and what will you study in USA.
Also here you need to check in the bags. Please note that if the weight of the bags are more than the limit specified by the airline, you need to pay extra and that too in dollars.Hence if you are sure your bags are very heavy, please keep your forex card in handy to pay extra.
Secondly, you will be getting an Indian Immigration Form that you will have to fill up. I would suggest that you also ask for US Customs form and also fill that and keep it in hand when you land at USA. If you don’t get US Customs form its fine you can ask it later. Generally custom forms are distributed inside the aircraft, but its ok to ask them if they have one.
After checking in the bags, please take the tags available at the counter. These tags must be put on the bags that you haven’t checked in (Laptop bag, etc)
Once this gets done and your bags are checked in you can take the tickets and proceed ahead.
Step 6: Indian Immigration
After filling the form, proceed towards the immigration counters. Generally there will be a huge line at immigration counters. Please be patient and wait for your turn. When your turn comes, please provide your passport, air ticket and I-20 to the officer. The officer will ask some general questions and then would stamp your passport and let you move ahead.
Step 7: Security Checks and Scan
After immigration you have to proceed towards security check. When you reach the security check please remove your jackets, empty all your pockets and take out your laptop from the bag. I would suggest you to empty all your pockets and keep those things inside your laptop bag. Have your air ticket in hand and nothing else. You will be scanned, your air ticket will be stamped and please check your hand baggages.
Your hand baggages like Laptop bag will also be scanned and after scanning the official will stamp on the tag you have placed on the bag at the airline counter. Kindly check this stamp. If your bag is not stamped you wont be allowed to board in the aircraft.
Step 8: Awaiting the announcement
After you are done with security checks, all you need to do is wait for the announcement of your aircraft boarding. International Airports have lots of things to see around. You can spend some time on window shopping, talking with other students who are traveling, sleeping for some time etc.
Step 9: Boarding Inside the Aircraft
Once you hear about the announcement for boarding, you have to proceed towards the desired gate, wait in line, show your air ticket and board the aircraft. Occasionally there would be an additional security check while boarding the aircraft.
Step 10: Airline Travel
Generally students do not travel directly to USA, they travel to one of the European destinations and then from there they travel to USA. I normally land in London and from London I catch another aircraft for Boston. Your airline travel time would be approximately 9 hrs to any of the middle destinations.
Step 11: Eating In Aircraft
I would strongly suggest that if its your first international travel then don’t eat too much. Eat little less than usual. Don’t drink a lot, I would say avoid any kid of hard drinks. Enjoy your travel, you can see lots of movies, TV Shows etc while in aircraft. You will be served twice: Generally a good Lunch/Dinner and a breakfast.
Step 12: Arriving at your Middle Destination
Once your plane gets landed in cities like Amsterdam, London etc. Pick up all your bags and wait in line to exit the aircraft. Do not fill any kind of immigration forms for that country since you are just switching your aircraft and not going out of the airport. So no need to fill any kind of forms.
Once you get out of the aircraft, look at the signs. You first need to proceed towards the immigration counter. In the immigration counter, you would be asked for your passport and air ticket and nothing else.
Step 13: Security Check (Lot Strict)
Once you get cleared from the immigrations, proceed towards security check. Security check is lot strict in European countries. Empty your pockets, remove your laptop, remove your shoes and socks, remove your jackets and belts. Your hand baggages will be scanned. They won’t allow you to carry water, so if you have it then drink it and throw the bottle.
Step 14: Awaiting for another Aircraft
Once you have cleared security check, its again a wait till your aircraft boarding begins. You can go around, eat something if you are hungry. Forex cards are accepted in all airports. There would be a charge for using it since you will be spending in Euros.
I would suggest you that if you don’t have US Customs form, ask from one of the airline officials and fill it.
Step 15: Boarding and Airline Travel
This steps is similar to the one mentioned above. Board the aircraft and relax.
Step 16: US Immigration
Once you flight lands in USA, take all your hand baggages from the aircraft and exit it. Proceed towards the immigration counter. There will be lots of separate counters at immigration, you need to go towards Travelers/Non Immigrants. Once you reach the immigration please provide your US Customs form, I-20 and passport. No need to provide anything else unless asked for. Answer the questions asked by the officer. Don’t get panicked or nervous. Answer normally.
Step 17: Collecting your Bag
It takes a lot of time for your baggages to arrive. Wait patiently and pick up the right bag that belongs to you. Its a good thing to check the unique number pasted on your bag and verify that number with the number pasted on your air ticket.
Step 18: US Customs
After collecting your bag, please proceed towards US Customs. Here you may be asked to open you baggages and they have the authority to search you bag entirely. If you are asked to open your baggages, please open it without asking any questions. They would generally asked what’s in the bag? Have you got any spices, food items etc? Do you have fruits, vegetables or any other perishable fruits?
Step 19: Welcome to the land of opportunities
Once you have cleared the customs, you can exit the airport and that’s all. Your dreams have come true and you have reached USA. Welcome to the land of opportunities. Work hard and your life gets made over here.
All the best.