Entry to the usa, Arrival, and travel

An F-1 student may enter the USA up to 30 days prior to the program start date listed on the I-20.  Check this date before you purchase tickets!  All students must arrive prior to the mandatory International Student Orientation. 

If you are participating in athletics, your coach may have scheduled an earlier arrival date for pre-season physical conditioning. If this applies to you, your coach will communicate with you regarding the date you are expected to arrive.

When you arrive in the USA, a Customs and Border Protection Officer will review your documents at the port of entry before you will be admitted.  Please be prepared to present the following documents to the CBP Officer:

  • 1.  Passport – must be valid for no less than six months beyond your entry date
  • 2.  F-1 unexpired student visa
  • 3.  I-20 Certificate of Eligibility

You should also bring copies your financial documentation and academic credentials and be prepared to present these if they are requested.  Do not pack your I-20, your passport, your money or any important documents in your checked baggage!  Either carry them in a safely concealed bag on your person or in your carryon bag.

Arrival at a United States Port of Entry

During your flight to the United States, you will be asked to complete a customs declaration form. Upon arrival at a U.S. Port of Entry, proceed to the terminal area for arriving passengers.  Officers from Customs and Border Protection (CBP) will review your documents, including your passport, your I-20, customs declaration form and your financial documentation.

The customs officer will ask you to state your reasons for wishing to enter the country and ask you 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 program where you will enroll (Central Methodist University; 411 CMU Square; Fayette, MO 65248).

The CBP Officer will stamp your passport, note your F-1 student visa type on it, and mark it "D/S", which indicates "duration of status", and means that you may stay in the United States as long as you maintain your lawful F-1 student status. Once you arrive on campus to check in with the International Office, you will print your form I-94, which you should keep with your passport. This document verifies that you entered the U.S. legally.

Secondary Inspection Requirements

If the CBP Officer at the Port of Entry cannot verify your information, or 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.

TRANSPORTATION TO CAMPUS

To reach Central Methodist University, you may fly into three different airports:

Columbia Regional Airport

Kansas City International Airport

St. Louis International Airport

Call CMU ISS: 660-248-6248 or send an email to cbaxter@centralmethodist.edu when you enter the USA to let us know if your flights are on time or delayed.  University staff will meet you at the airport and bring you to campus the first time you travel to CMU. In order to coordinate arrival times, please email your travel itinerary to the international office as soon as you have purchased your airfare, and include the following information:

  • 1.  Date of Arrival
  • 2.  Airport
  • 3.  Airline and flight number
  • 4.  Arrival Time
  • 5.  Final (connecting) City of Departure
  • 6.  Number of People in Your Party

If you would prefer, MO-X provides a paid shuttle service from the St. Louis and Kansas City airports to Columbia or Boonville several times per day.

Cars may also be rented at any of the airports as well as through the following local vendors: Enterprise, Avis, Hertz.

If you are already in the United states, other options include traveling by train on Amtrack, or by bus:  Trailways or Greyhound.

Tips for Travel

Check the weight restrictions for the air carrier you are using. Additional fees for overweight luggage can be quite costly. Due to an increase in the amount of luggage that misses connecting flights, you should pack a complete change of clothes in your carry-on luggage. You may also want to bring a phone card, and some U.S. currency to use in the airport in case you are delayed or your cell phone or laptop do not work. You need an adapter/converter to convert your electronic device plug from the type of outlet used in your home country to AC voltage outlets in the USA.

TRAVEL INSIDE THE USA

You may travel anywhere inside the USA as long as you maintain your lawful F-1 student status, have a valid passport, valid I-20, and the current I-94 in your possession.

TRAVEL OUTSIDE THE USA

You may depart from, and reenter the USA as long as you maintain your lawful F-1 student status, have a valid passport, a valid F-1 visa, and a valid I-20, which has been endorsed for travel on page two by your DSO.  Each travel signature on page two is valid for twelve months.  If you depart from and remain outside the USA for a period longer than five months, you will have to get a new I-20 to return.

TRAVEL OUTSIDE THE USA WHILE ON POST-COMPLETION OPT

You may depart from, and reenter the USA as long as you maintain your lawful F-1 student status, have a valid passport, a valid F-1 visa, your unexpired OPT Employment Authorization Document and a valid I-20, which has been endorsed for travel on page two by your DSO.  Each travel signature on page two is valid for six months while you are working on OPT.