Arrival: Point of Entry

Here is a quick guide on procedures to be followed while on the aircraft, the customs at the POE, and at baggage claim upon your arrival if this is the first entry point into the United States as a legal non-immigrant.


The majority of new Dominican international students arrive at the San Francisco Airport (SFO), which is located an hour away from the campus. As a result, for most students SFO will be their Port of Entry (POE), the first entry point into the United States as a legal non-immigrant.


On the Aircraft

Here is a guide on procedures that need to be followed while on the aircraft, the customs at the POE, and at baggage claim. Prior to landing, the flight attendant will distribute customs declaration forms and U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) forms. The most important form is the I-94 arrival/departure document.

Important reminders when filling out I-94 document:

  • Print clearly, placing a single letter into each space
  • Your date of birth should be written with the month first: MONTH, DAY, YEAR
  • Minor mistakes can cause major delays with some applications that must be filed upon arriving on campus, so please be careful while filling out the I-94 document.

Customs at the Port of Entry

Upon arrival, students will present their passport, visa, I-20 form, and I-94 document. The top of the I-94 document is the arrival record and a Customs and Border Protection officer will collect this. The bottom portion is a departure record, which must be returned upon exiting the United States.

After reviewing the documents and updating the student’s SEVIS record with the entry information, the port of entry official will stamp the student’s I-20 form and I-94 card and return them.

The I-20 form and passport must be stamped by the port of entry official noting the F-1 D/S (Duration of Status), date and location of arrival in the U.S. If this is not completed, please bring it to the attention of the port of entry official so that it can be stamped with this annotation.

While the CBP officer is inspecting the immigration documents, students may be asked some general questions. If this happens to you, don't get agitated or nervous, it's just a routine procedure. Always answer any questions clearly, honestly, and politely. If there is a problem, you may suggest they contact Vaolele Stawiarski at [email protected].

Baggage Claim

After clearing customs, you may proceed to the baggage claim area to collect your bags. If the bags are not on the carousel, or they are marked, inform the airline service kiosk in the baggage claim area.

It may be necessary to meet with a U.S. Customs Official (or the Agricultural Department) if you bags are marked. You may be asked about the contents of the bags or asked to open the bags up. Please follow U.S. Customs Official's instructions. 

Please bear in mind that the penalty for carrying contraband is very high and may result in deportation.

For more information on what to expect at a U.S. Port of Entry, please see this U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s Fact Sheet.